The sights and sounds of the park make the first impression: cars zooming by along 370 can be heard, the hum of bikers, and the steps of runners coming up from behind and the sound of a dogs gallop. All of these sounds surround you while the music of birds and squirrels offer a constant chorus to fill the quiet as you step further away from the parking area and fee to the sanctity of the inner park.
More runners pass by from behind and from the opposite direction. But what catches my eye are the variety of walkers and runners. many of the walkers are elderly folk who are making an attempt to stay fit and live "just a bit" longer. I hope they achieve their goal. Its a pleasure to see an older couple walking along in conversation, sometimes holding hands. They seem happy. Pointing at things they see in the park or out in the horizon of Onondaga Lake, laughing and simply enjoying their time together.
I see roller bladers. Most rolling quietly by quickly. Those wheels are dead silent. Its amazing to watch them glide along so effortlessly. I saw a young mom rolling swiftly while pushing a double sport stroller. The kids were young, yet they seemed to be having a blast feeling the wind in their face silently riding along. Then there was the dad who was running while pushing a single sport stroller. He, too, made it look easy. I know its not though. Not from experience, but from running with an old friend who brought his sport stroller a few times. He struggled at times to keep up. Maybe that's why he was such a fast runner. He persevered through those challenging runs and made it to the end.
There was even a moment of sweetness. A little girl, no more than 10 or 11 years old was running with her toddler age brother. He could not have been older than 4. They were running. She look like a fairly strong runner for her age while her brother struggled. She slowed down so he could catch up and she held out her hand and said, "You gotta slow down." Those are the best words of advice for beginning runners. Slow down. Running fast is not the goal. Running comfortably is the goal so running long and far into the future can be accomplished. I bet that in a few years that little boy will be running with his sister ten years from now and will be out running her. However, he will always owe it to her, his sister, for giving him that small piece of advice that he can share with his running mates when they can't finish the run... slow down. I hope he doesn't forget the most important part of that advice though, he has to slow down, too. Stay with your friend. Encourage him or her to keep running. However, its alright to walk.
On a note of sticking with your pal who is running slow... There was such a pair this morning. A tall, thin woman ran slowly alongside her overweight friend although, I'm sure she could have sped up any time. She showed her loyalty in helping her friend who struggled. Obviously, she was helping and encouraging her friend to achieve a personal health goal. To be honest with you, I wanted to run with them. Its these experiences, these strangers, who inspire me the most to continue running. They demonstrate the any challenge can be overcome and remind me of my running journey that started in April of 2008.
A few final notes: On my way to the OLP, I witnessed a bicycle crash. I drove by a group of road bikers who stood by caring for their fallen pedal-mate along Budweiser Highway, Rte 631. I slowed down to see if they needed any assistance. They were waiting for the ambulance. I later discovered that the fallen cycler was a woman, 60ish years old, and she broke her elbow in the crash. I do not know the details of her fall, but I hope she gets better with minimal complications and gets back on her pedals again soon.
I also learned how fragile life is just before lunch when I bumped into a friend who told me about a young mother, Desiree, who ran with us a few times. Apparently she was having some numbness in her left arm that turned out to be a bulging disk problem she was unaware of and it burst while attending a function for her son. She dropped and is currently at University Hospital Spinal Center. She is paralyzed from the chest down. Please say a few prayers for her and her son. My hope is that she recovers and can reverse her paralysis.
There is one more item I'd like to add. As I ran toward and around my turnaround, there was a an exercise spectacle happening on the main lawn alongside the lake. There was an aerobic instructor leading a class of 30 or so women in a morning aerobics class blasting and moving to some awesome music. I loved it. This is what makes Syracuse so wonderful. The people are outside and enjoying the beautiful day. I hope I see this again soon. If you haven't been out to the OLP in a while, I command you to go and take it all in.
Keep running. Never stop.
See you on the road.