Since October, I have been out of commission with a hip injury, unable to run with any consistency. At first, this was difficult to cope with, mostly because the lack of running disrupted a daily routine: wake up early, run, and then head to school. As any committed athlete understands, training becomes an addiction, to the point that two or three consecutive days without physical activity leaves one with pent-up frustration, itching to break a sweat.
Throughout the summer, I attempted to run each morning, usually starting at Avalon School, making my way through Belgravia, the U of A campus and finally, downtown. Once I reached the other side of the High Level Bridge, I made my way back home – a 15 k adventure in total. Although the physical component of running – the sound of feet hitting the sidewalk – was one of the reasons why I laced up my shoes each morning, I believe that there is something that far outweighs the physicality of the experience. What I am talking about is discovering: every morning was an adventure. Over time, I found that running without a pre-planned route was the best way to go. Simply put, you head wherever your feet take you. They might take you through Hawrelak Park, to Commonwealth Stadium, to the endless kilometres of River Valley or in some cases, to locations as far as St. Albert. Running is a creative endeavour, a process of discovery.
The three months since the mid-October injury have been manageable, though there are times where the longing to run is excruciating. When one laces up the trail shoes before heading outdoors, the thrill of adventure awaits. Perhaps this seems odd, given that we are talking about Edmonton, a city that many locals refer to as “Deadmonton.” However, no matter how much I try, I can never understand just how someone can refer to Edmonton by this name. When I think of Deadmonton, words such as “darkness,” and “emptiness” come to mind. I think of a city composed of grey and brown, with little colour and little vitality. Yes, the winters can be dreary at times, and the dirty snow and slippery sidewalks can enrage the calmest of individuals. Yet, there is little that suggests that Edmonton is fit for this title.
If you are a person that laments the reality of living in Edmonton, then I encourage you to do something that I cannot at this moment: throw on a pair of shoes, and run. Head outdoors, jog through the River Valley, through Hawrelak and maybe even downtown. When you are all done, stretch on the front steps of Garneau School and grab a coffee at Transcend or Remedy. As you build up endurance, discover new neighbourhoods, whether it is in the West end near Mountain Equipment Co-op and the Urban Diner, or the maze that is Riverbend. I assure you that the novel sights and sounds will leave you wanting to investigate additional parts of town.
Edmonton is a premier Canadian city, with gorgeous parks and community league system that are largely unparalleled in North America. Why not discover in person and on foot? Most of us drive through the city on the commute to work, or take the LRT on the way to school, but these activities are too withdrawn from the first-hand experience that is running. No matter how much experience (or lack thereof) you possess as a runner, don’t be worried. Grab some shoes, throw on a jacket, some mitts and a toque. Throw any plans out the window, clear your mind, and explore this excellent city.
CC photograph courtesy of “alexabboud” on Flickr.