FREEPORT, Maine - Vacation runs can be astounding: bounding up a mountain in North Carolina; majestic strides taken next to the Pacific Ocean in California at sunrise; picking through the rocks and tree roots in a forest in Nova Scotia - but getting to the finish nonetheless.
And then other times, vacation runs are plodding along on the shoulder of a two-lane highway hoping that a truck driver won't nod off and make you roadkill.
The first leg of my summer vacation took me to Nova Scotia; the second took me to Maine. On my first night in Vacation Land, I stopped at a Holiday Inn Express in Freeport, a town known for being just outside of Portland and home to a 24-hour LL Bean. I didn't really mind stopping at a roadside motel. After a year of long road trips, I developed a fondness for Holiday Inn Express and its free breakfast. Freeport was also a good stopping point after nine hours of driving before I moved on to Portland and points south.
I woke up Tuesday morning feeling - mentally - that I should run even though my body didn't want to. Per usual after a long drive, my ankles creaked, my hamstring whined, and the bug bites I picked up in Canada laughed at me when I pulled on my sports bra and shorts. My diet the day before consisted of typical road trip fare: Burger King and some kind of chicken wrap bought from a Circle K. I don't know if it was the bathroom mirror lighting that made me look so bloated, or the Cheetos that I'd paired with the chicken wrap the night before, but I felt gross, sluggish - not exactly ready to do any kind of athletic feat.
But I still wanted to get in some miles. I could have driven to a more picturesque location, but I was meeting a friend for breakfast that morning, so down Route 1 I went.
Route 1 runs along the coast of Maine. In Freeport, it's parallel to I-295. The shoulders of the road are wide, but the speed limit is still 45, which sounds a lot faster when cars are moving past you at that speed than when you're driving it. The scenery wasn't exactly ocean glory: more motels, yacht sales stores, antique emporiums, a car repair shop and grass, spread out under the tune of highway traffic buzzing in the background.
Last summer, when I flew to Texas to buy my Jeep and then drive it home, I stopped in a town called Texarkana, which is both in Arkansas and Texas. I was training for a marathon then, and before starting the next leg of that journey, ran around the parking lots of the motels clustered there. It was an odd run, but along the way I came across a shuttered diner, which looked both retro and sad at the same time, and I can now always say that I ran in Texas.
Along Route 1 in Freeport, I looked at more yachts that I've probably seen in my lifetime, even if they were parked on the side of the road.
The run was slow, and my legs still felt like lead, but by the time I got back to the Holiday Inn Express parking lot, and picked up my free coffee with free breakfast, I felt refreshed and ready for the adventures of that day, which included of course shopping at LL Bean, and then walking 10 miles around Portland, ending with a dinner of raw oysters and potato chips.
I've written before that running takes you places. Sometimes those places aren't spectacular, but they're different, and that's what makes it worthwhile - highway noise and all.
TuesdaySJAC Summer Series, Cooper River Park, 7 p.m. start, $5 entry fee. 1 Loop (3.65 miles) staggered start race (handicap). No frills race, age group awards
WednesdayVineland Recreation Summer Series No. 4, 7 p.m. start, free entry. Series of 5 X-Country runs in S. Vineland Park, awards at end of series. No frills event, 429 W. Elmer Rd.
ThursdayBrowning Ross Summer Sizzler Series 5K, 7 p.m. Rowan University. Fee: $5. Race day registration only. Info: 856-904-3543, firstname.lastname@example.org. tuffgangrunning.com
Capt. Bill Gallagher 10 Mile, Sea Isle City, 5:30 p.m. start, $20 pre, $30 post. Shirts for first 1200 entries, 5 year age groups through 70+, #10 44th Street.
Coombs/Douglas 5M/2M, Town Bank, N.J. 8:30 a.m. start, $20 pre, $25 post. 5 year age groups & tshirts starts at Town Bank Fire Hall.
Next SaturdayWildwood Crest Beach Run 5K/1 Mile, 8:30 a.m. start, 5K $25 pre, $30 post, 1 Mile $20 pre, $25 post. Cash only race day morning. Wildwood Crest Recreation Dept., 6101 Pacific Ave.
Alex & Arleen Boyes Memorial 5K, 3K walk, 9 a.m., Warminster Community Park. $25. cancersupportphiladelphia.org Contact Kathy O'Mara at 215-441-3290 Ext. 108 email@example.com.
Aug. 12Vineland Recreation Summer Series No. 5, 7 p.m. start, free entry. Series of 5 X-Country runs in S. Vineland Park, awards at end of series. No frills event, 429 W. Elmer Rd
Aug. 13Browning Ross Summer Sizzler Series 10K, 7 p.m. Rowan University. Fee: $5. Race day registration only. Info: 856-904-3543, firstname.lastname@example.org. tuffgangrunning.com
Aug. 15BFF 5K, Estell Manor, N.J. 8 a.m. start, $25 pre, $30 post. 10 year age groups, shirts for first 100. Starts at Estell Manor Park
Aug. 16Guts and Glory 5K, Ocean City, N.J. 8:30 a.m. start, $25 pre, $30 post. 10 year age groups through 70+ 1735 Simpson Ave.
Aug. 18SJAC Summer Series, Cooper River Park, 7 p.m. start, $5 entry fee. 1, 2 or 3 loops at the Coop (3.65 miles each). No frills race, age group awards.
Aug. 22Autism Speaks 5K, Wildwood, 8 a.m. start, $25 pre, $30 post. Minimal awards, shirts for some preregistrants. Rio Grande & the Boardwalk.
Chickie & Pete's 5K, Atlantic City, 8 a.m. start, $40 pre, $45 post. 10 year age groups through 70+.
Wildwood Crest Beach Run 5K/1-Mile, 8:30 a.m. $25 pre, $30 post, 1-Mile $20 pre, $25 post. Cash only race day. Packet pickup Aug. 7, 6-8 p.m. at the rec center. Wildwood Crest Recreation Dept., 6101 Pacific Ave.
Aug. 20Browning Ross Summer Sizzler Series 5K, 7 p.m. Rowan University. Fee: $5. Race day registration only. Info: 856-904-3543, email@example.com. tuffgangrunning.com
Aug. 27Browning Ross Summer Sizzler Series Alumni Run, 7 p.m. Rowan University. $50 cash award for the top male and female of the alumni race. Fee: $5. Race day registration only. Info: 856-904-3543,
Sept. 7Hot Diggity Dog 10K Trail Race and 2-Mile Fun Run, 9:30 a.m., Mercer County Park, West Windsor, N.J. Fee: $38 (10K), $23 (fun run). buckscountyspeedsters.com
Sept. 20Fall Festival of Races, 10K, 5K, and 1-Mile Fun Run, Horsham Township Community Center, 8:45 a.m. 10K: $35, 5K: $30, Fun Run: $15. horshamrotary.org
For complete schedule, go to philly.com/ontherun. E-mail date, name of race, site, time, and fee plus registration information to John Quinn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Put "Running calendar" in re: field.