I See Dead Skunks

Running is more than a sport to me. It’s a way of life as engrained in my daily routine as breathing and sleeping. It’s my anxiolytic and narcotic, taking the worries of the moment off my mind and keeping me sane. By spending so much time on the roads, I also get to know which house is for sale, who’s got a new dog and where the dead skunks are.
Within hours of arriving at a new location, I’ve got to run. I usually check online ahead of time to find the best roads or trails. I’m a kitchen-sink researcher, reading local runners’ blogs and printing maps that I try to memorize before leaving, so that I’m already familiar with the roadways when I arrive. In the pre-Internet days, I wasn’t as well-prepared. I still tried to make sure to avoid certain neighborhoods of, say, Atlanta, before sunrise or after sunset. I’ve run in the summer heat of Marrakesh in long sleeves and leggings, back and forth on a main large road near my hotel, because I determined it was the only safe way. I’ve run in streets of Los Angeles where car is king and hardly anybody uses the sidewalks. I got to see sides of Vienna, Prague, Edinburgh and Washington, D.C., that I would have missed otherwise. When there’s really no other way, like during a hurricane or a winter blizzard, I’ll run on treadmills at a hotel’s gym.
Running on the flat roads of  the shore.
I come back from running with a wealth of information. When I’m not training for a marathon and my runs aren’t predetermined by a specific plan, I practice what I call running usefully. On vacation on the Atlantic Coast last month, I used my first run to check the opening hours of the wine store and the supermarket (in that order), as well as yoga classes at the local gym. On my first trip there last year, I knew more about the place after a few days than my husband, who spent his summers there as a child. There’s a boardwalk here, a path there that provides access to a fishing spot. Needless to say, I also know where working public bathrooms and water fountains are: those are the basics for a runner. Jogging with my dog Gatsby is a plus: I get to know where the rabbits, cats and fox hang out.
Boardwalk run in September, after the summer crowds are gone.
 At home, my running proves useful too. I double as a human GPS when we need to drive anywhere within a radius of 10-15 miles. When a road is blocked by a fallen tree or construction work, no problem: I probably know a back way.
If you’re looking to buy a house, I can be your real estate agent. After moving to the area in 2008, I ran through the housing market’s bust and its return. I know which houses have been for sale and for how long. I’ve tried most of the roads: I can tell you which ones are safe for pedestrians, and which ones aren’t.
If you’re a pollster, I can help too: I know who’s voting for whom, in local or national elections, from the signs on their lawns. If you’re afraid of large barking dogs, I can tell you which roads to avoid and if you want to see llamas or goats without going all the way  to the zoo, just ask me. I know where they live.
I see dead skunks when I run, more often than I want. (Photo from public domain.)

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