Friday, September 5, 2008

10 Miles of Memories

Labor Day weekend is a family holiday for the Gasper Family. I mean it! It is the ONLY time when me and my sisters are all in the same place for a Holiday. I mean it – not Easter, not Thanksgiving, not CHRISTMAS. NADA. But Labor Day, which is a bit odd. I don’t think any of my family really knows the history behind Labor Day. And I must admit, as I’ve gotten older I do feel a more than a twinge of guilt that I’m not out at some Labor action on that day. Usually, I’m stuffing my face with fair fries.

But that weekend has so many memories for my family and me. Our County Fair, The Canfield Fair – is that same weekend and we all end up there at some point. All of us girls used to show horses. And it isn’t as if my parents shelled out thousands of dollars for horses, tack, riding lesions, etc. This was something that we all took on ourselves. We bought our own horses, trained them and bought our own tack – which was usually used.

You could say we kind of looked like misfits – but somehow, it all came together.

Sometimes that is how I feel about my running…I have no formal training, I know my form must look funny, but somehow…it all comes together. But, no grand championships are in my future with running!

On Saturday, I had to go out and run 10 miles in the morning if I was going to spend the rest of the day eating fried food. I got up a bit later than what I wanted to, since I got in late the night before. By time I was out on my run, it was 8:30 am and the morning fog was almost completely burned off.

I like to run down Washingtonville Road by my parents’ house. It is a pretty road with gently rolling hills. But those hills can seem a bit rough running up them. It has one of my favorite scenes from home – a big, beautiful old barn in a state of decay. I don’t know why I find it so beautiful and sad, but I do – especially when it is surrounded by the morning light and dew still soaks the ground. Then, the road connects to the bike trail, which is the old converted RR tracks where my family used to hike and pick black raspberries when I was a kid. On Saturday, I was surprised to find a bike race happening on the road. I asked one of the volunteers how far they were going and they said 8 miles, which seemed really odd to me – but whatever, I just kept going.

The bike trail takes me past the fairgrounds and I cannot help but think about my youth when I showed horses there, being there with my sisters and the friendships I forged during the early mornings at the barn. And I MEAN early – like 5 am. There was always something different about the late summer early mornings – when you could feel the chill of fall in the air.

We used to ride our horses back into the fair parking lot (which dubs as a hay field in the early summer) the parking lot opens up into a wooded area. I always found these morning rides very peaceful and were probably one of my favorite things about the fair.

I also had my adopted family at the fair – all the parents who helped me out. They made sure I had a ride up in the morning, helped me tack up my horse when I was too small to do it myself – gave me pointers when I rode, shared a hug with me when Alex (my horse) and I knocked down a cone or a pole, and made sure I got home at night. My parents were always too busy with the farm to fill those duties themselves. I love all those people like family and it makes me so happy to run into them when I am back at the fair as an adult.

On my way back on my run, I thought about someone I’ve started seeing again…he was running an ironman that weekend. I can never get over how incredible that is – and he can do several of them in one year – unbelievable. All that being said, both of our busy lives make it difficult for us to see each other. And I have a hard time working through that.

As I continued running, I ran into more bikers and asked another volunteer about the race – he said it was an 8 mile loop – and they were doing it 8 times. That sounded more like it. The bike race just made me think of the changing times and how peoples’ recreation is changing – even in the valley. I never would have imagined a bike race there 20 years ago. Some farmers would have been up in arms about it for some reason I’m sure. That is the same reason by the bike trail doesn’t extend through the rest of the old RR track – too many old farmers unwilling to let some yuppies run a bike path through their property.

But, many of those old farmers have had no choice but to sell more of their land to those yuppies riding the bikes.

At the end of my run, I talked with a knowledgeable volunteer for several minutes. He was interested in how far I ran and I was interested more about the bike race. We talked about the different races we had both ran. He tried to convince me to run the Army 10 miler in a couple of weeks in DC – and I had to explain that I have this little thing called an election going on. But, it made me smile – thinking of how I used to live in DC and how my friend Kamden always runs that race.

It was a weird run – a lot of jumbled up memories from different parts of my life coming together in 10 miles.

But, the one constant was that I could eat my fair fries and have my lemon shake, too without any guilt. And if that isn’t a holiday – I don’t know what is!

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