Connecticut on Foot

by Molly Horan

I don't run. I gallop, quickly shuffle, jog with determination, hobble wildly, and even stride briefly in a manner that could be mistaken for running if seen from a distance by a fellow non-runner. Not running has not discouraged me, however, from joining a division one collegiate cross country team, buying endless copies of Runner's World, or finding myself on starting lines across the state, wondering if I could keep up with the gray haired, genuine runner sporting a broken arm in a sling (as it turns out, I could not). As an high school student, I adopted the guise of thespian, my stage credits and omnipresence in the costume room overshadowing my paralyzing stage fright and utter lack of stage presence. Tired of that ruse, I turned to the only over pastime I was less suited for, traveling at a speed greater than 4 miles an hour without the aid of a car. Running has left me with an ankle injury sports medicine has deemed "interesting," piles of dirty laundry whose reek does not allow my habitual procrastination, and an unhealthy anger at the mere sight of any incline greater than slopping curb. But its also shown me more of the Nutmeg State and its multi-dimensional towns.

I ran my first road race in New Britain where I normally wouldn't dared to run in the streets without a mass of athletic women unknowingly acting as body guards. Before the gun sounded at The Race in the Park for Breast Cancer on the slightly soggy morning, my thoughts were on my shoes, with their $10, 3 centimeter soles that were looking particularly shabby next to the real runners' scientifically engineered Nike's whose bases seemed to be filled with air, springs, and possibly tiny speakers that could play "Chariots of Fire." When the sea of pink around me surged forward onto the first road, I was suddenly filled with panic. While Central Connecticut's campus seemed insulated form the rest of the town, scattered local news headlines of New Britain violence surfaced within my head, vague yet magnified. All such thoughts left me, however, by the first road side audience/ Families camped out on their driveway in lawn chairs and plastic wagons, sporting noise makers and clapping as we ran past. The course twisted through many enthusiastic neighborhoods whose encouragement revealed a side of New Britain rarely featured on the news, that includes a strong arts program in their high school, the impressive New Britain Museum of American Art, and sprawling Walnut Hill Park.

In October my hometown of Bristol hosted the Mum-a-thon, a 2 and 5 mile race in the spirit of their Mum Festival, the festivities of which I haven't attended cine a trip to the parade when I was eight. The race was to be held on the edge of town, and the morning of I printed directions to guide my mother and I across Bristol, completely necessary though we have lived there for 25 and 19 years, respectively. It wasn't until I stood at the starting line, I remembered Bristol's infamous hills, rising steeply and leveling out so to give a runner no relief. At the same time, I was reminded of the natural beauty of the quiet, less developed sections of Bristol, which showcased large expanses of trees between the spaced out buildings. The drive through Bristol's Chippens Hill neighborhood with its modern glass pained middle school and imposing houses, which later took us through chain-littered route six to my own 50-esc suburb reminded me of the somewhat schizophrenic layout of Bristol. Yet while people might associate the town with crime-ridden Davis drive, the Mum-a-thon was full of families, happy to be running together, and even more pleased with the pancake breakfast.

Throughout the summer I raced in the memorial Petit 5K in Plainville and the inexplicably titled Lobster Loop in landlocked Canton. Neither lacked in tree lined paths, crowds of encouragers, or enough discarded water bottles to make an environmentalist cringe. Standing at starting line after starting line, all the towns began to blur together. I can remember the Gazebo in Canton, the moment of silence in Plainville, and the Dad doubling back to finish the race for a second time with his daughter in Bristol, yet lack words to describe the towns overall. My self-made 5-K series has taught me not to write off any piece of Connecticut. They've all been willing to cheer me on.

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