Are There Really Goodbyes?

Are there really any good byes?  Surely there is good riddance.  There is a relief in removing unwanted or unwarranted company. Some people are able to cast off those who seek to undermine or negatively effect their lives.  Even those of us who have a harder time letting go, eventually know the sweet release of removing a canker from our lives. “Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya,” as a good friend says.

How do we genuinely say goodbye to those we love? In a world of all-you-can-eat buffets and full season just-one-more-episode binge watching on Netflix, how do we find the will to end a good thing? Sometimes it’s the bartender ringing last call. On the really good nights, it’s the sun coming up and the recognition of a new day that brings things to an end. How do we personally end that enchanting conversation?  How can we let go of that comforting warm hug?  How do we stop dancing when music is still playing and the band is tried and true?

These last couple weeks, I have been wracked with anxiety. Packing up the remains of my life here in Maine has been like a death of a million cuts, Favored shirts, dog eared books, touristy tokens that trigger little movies in my memory palace, all steal precious moments from my final days here. Time is spent weighing the object’s emotional worth, physical size, and ability to weather 30,000 miles and a year on the road. Likewise, friendships have been put to similar tests over the past couple of weeks. Some friends have actively distanced themselves from me, to see if I would seek them out. Other friends have tested my resolve to actually leave in ways even my Jewish grandmother would have found unfair as far as guilt trips go. Others patiently make themselves available, hold on to hugs just a little longer, press their lips to forehead, cheek, or lips just a little harder.

I have learned that the best of friends just take up the conversations where we left off. Maybe the time and distance give us a better perspective or a more balanced view but the love and conversation has that wonderful rhythm which feels like home. Maybe when I hear good bye, my mind translates “bye for good”. I don’t like that thought at all. In fact, I am mortally tired of goodbyes. Instead I’ll use the term farewell because all I really want is to see my friends again and know that they have been well and have had many fun adventures along the way.

Farewell Hallowell. May my neighbors remember they live beside each other not against each other. Farewell my favorite watering holes. May you continue to sustain and nourish while drinks and conversations flow and flourish. Farewell my favorite trails, Vaughn Woods, The Res, The Kennebec River Rail Trail. I wish my friends would spend more time with you because you have only made my life better over the past few years. Farewell my friends. I will miss you everyday. I will see something or meet someone and will immediately wish you could be there with me, which is silly, because I shall carry you all with me, tightly packed into the recesses of my heart. Please reach out from time to time and let me know that you still carry me in your heart. If you carry me and I carry you, maybe the burdens of this life won’t weigh us down so much. Fare well, my friends, farewell.


All The Comforts of Home – Final Training on the Kennebec Rail Trail

We all have that restaurant. It’s OUR place. Where everyone knows your name. They know how you take your coffee.  They know if you come in on a Wednesday, you’re there for the special.  They know what condiment you take with your eggs (Frank’s Red Hot, if you were wondering.) You take family there, new friends to impress, and long lost friends who come home to roost.  It is your de facto home office away from home office.  For me, it’s the Hi Hat Pancake House in Farmingdale, Maine. A view that overlooks the river and the Kennebec Rail Trail. The waitresses are knowlegeable. friendly, and efficient. The food is consistent and if it’s not, they fix it, immediately. I can always count on a great experience and a smile.

As runners we all have that trail, that road, that path.  It’s OUR place. We own it.  Bought and paid for, every mile, with our sweat, blisters, and tears. We know every crack in the pavement, the percent of every incline, every tenth of a mile. We know where to park, how to stash a water bottle, and when the sun will rise and set.  The trail knows us too. It knows our secrets, where we are weakest, the things we say to ourselves to make us stronger. For me, that is the Kennebec Rail Trail spanning from Augusta, Maine to Gardiner, Maine. I have run with so many friends on this trail.  I have run with both my father and my sister on this trail. I have learned to be alone with myself on this path.

Originally, I had planned to run the route of the MidCoast Marathon for the second of three weekly training marathons and the actual Philadelphia Marathon as a finsher for the month. Work got in the way of a weekend getaway to Philly and after getting lost multiple times in Montreal, I wanted the comfort of a well worn path. Instead of a new marathon to plan out, I ran safety loops week two. There is a place to park in Farmingdale, not far from the Hi Hat, where it is 1.5 miles to the Gardiner entrance and 2 miles to the hill that overlooks downtown Hallowell. At no point am I more than a mile away from safety if something goes wrong.  My car rests in the center with all the supplies I need – warmer gear, water, first aid kit. Just keep running loops until I reached 26.2 miles.

Even with my home court advantage I still messed up the electronics the first week back in Maine.  I didn’t lock the Garmin charger on my watch so instead of being fully charged, I ran out of juice a mile into the run.  Then I took a phone call at the end of my first loop, ending my Nike + tracking after 7 miles. It kept playing music but stopped counting miles. I unplug at least once a week, but aside from helping to know where I’ve been, I need the tracking to prove to myself that I can do this – that I have done this. When I finished I felt strong and I finished in a comfortable time of 6:12.

The next week, I expanded the loop and took away my safety net.  As the map shows, this week I was fully prepared, at least on a technical level. On a physical level, I was beginning to show the strain of multiple weeks of long distance.  I started off the run feeling like I was running fast, but I never really got past a training pace.  At the start of the second half I still felt strong, but my watch was telling me I was running in slow motion.  By the final 10k, even my running was at a walking pace and my walking was an Olympic style crawl on dry land.  The thing that kept me strong was that I was able to keep moving.  The reason I could keep moving – comfort. At every step I knew where I was and exactly how far I had to go.  Each squirrel, every birch tree, all the blades of grass were old friends, cheering me on.  Hooray for the Home Court Advantage.

A month from now I will be running constantly changing paths. I will never know exactly what is around the next blind corner.  Each week I will be a stranger in a strange land.  Having just coasted to victory on the back of every run I’ve ever taken on the rail trail, I only hope that when I weaken, memories of this running haven will refresh the coffee cup of my stamina.  Like my favorite breakfast place, I hope the trails I run will consistently satisfy, no mater what the route du jour is that day.  I can only hope that the runners I will meet, greet me with the hospitality and care I have received from each of my favorite waitresses. It will not be long until I find out.