You’ve read about our theories of exercising on vacation before – but what about business travel? What about using your passion to see the sites, while your job requires you do it? My father, Scott Hornstein, has not only passed on the basis of my career, but also a love (sometimes reckless love) of running. Here are some of his stories.
Regrettably, we also share a sense of humor.
Business Suits and Sneakers
By Scott Hornstein
There came a time in my life when I decided that I needed to quit smoking cigarettes. I knew (or thought I knew) that I enjoyed smoking and I could not imagine what life would be like without it, but nonetheless I decided that the time was now. I had my last cigarette that New Year’s Eve.
My story, however, is not about the cigarettes, it’s about running, because the next morning I got up, put on my sneakers, and started running. Predictably, I made it almost to the mailbox outside my house before the world went all blurry and I coughed up vital organs. But it became an inextricable part of my life, part of the way I celebrate my life, whether home or on the road.
I have lived a great deal of my life on the road. For 20 years, if it was Monday morning, I was on the 6am flight to somewhere. My wardrobe changed as times changed but my sneakers were always packed.
To be clear, there is no one, especially those that I grew up with, who would even remotely describe me as athletic-inclined. Growing up, if I thought about exercise, I lay down until the feeling passed. If I had to leave my house I had 2 books with me, just in case I finished the first.
I’m not a marathoner, nor have I ever wanted to be. I run because, every time, it gives me something to feel good about. I don’t judge myself by how far or how fast – just that I walked out the door. And believe me, when you run a town you really learn your way around.
Here are some of my stories.
Running before work means getting up earlier than most, and on this day I was up really early to get out before the heavy swamp heat of Nawlins woke up. I was staying near where the Superdome used to be. This was a new neighborhood for me and I was looking forward to the exploration.
It was about 6am when I turned on the TV to keep me company in my hotel room while I loosened up. Incredibly, the newscaster said it was 90 degrees with 100% humidity. I looked out the window and it wasn’t raining.
I did the run. It took me most of the day to stop sweating.
One other N.O. story.
As I said, running acquaints you with a city. On one of my runs through and around the French Quarter, I found K-Paul’s Kitchen, where chef Paul Prudhomme cooks. Now I absolutely love New Orleans cuisine and he is a master.
The next day I left work early and got to K-Paul’s at about 4:45 in the afternoon. The line was around the block. I stuck my head in to see if there was a bar I could eat at, but no. I caught the eye of a waitress and said, I’m a single, should I still wait on this line to eat?
She said there was a table of singles and if I didn’t mind sitting with strangers I could come right in. So I came right in. The table was populated by a group of undertakers who had come in for a convention. The conversation was indeed strange, but the etouffe was over the moon. I’m still trying to clear my arteries.
I look at every city I go to and ask myself, would I, could I choose to live here. Mandeville, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, gets a big yes. (Say the name of the lake 3 times fast). Though I’d rather not be there in a hurricane.
While I have been to NOLA many times, my first trip to Mandeville got me into a fist fight with the heat and humidity. I lost.
My hotel opened to the feeder road of a highway, so I found a back road to run on that ended in an open field. The segment was about a ½ mile long so I figured I’d just do it several times. I ran down it once and got very light-headed. The sweat was pouring off me like I had been doing wind sprints. I decided that revolutionaries must live to fight another day, walked back to the hotel and went inside to the air conditioning.
Kansas City Missouri is a city that smacks of quality of life. My friend Vince moved there, and notwithstanding the occasional tornado warning, loved it.
My hotel was so close to the highway that people on the on-ramp would knock on my window and ask directions.
One morning I woke up and the weather outside was frightful, ghastly – cold and sleety – so I decided to go down to their exercise room. I had checked it out the evening before when I checked in. 3 older treadmills and a window that opened.
When I got there at 5:30am this small room was jammed. Each treadmills was occupied. I waiting 10 minutes but nobody was getting off. I left.
This hotel was in a big oval with the rooms on the outside and an inner courtyard. Going back to my room on the 7th floor I realized that the hallway went all around the oval. So that’s where I ran. Round and round the hallway, pretending it was a carpeted indoor track. Worked fine.
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA
Described to me by my client as the Promised Land, I have to say that Mountain View fits the bill, though not where I was staying. I took up residence at a Hilton Garden Inn on the main drag, and the majority of my runs were up and down the main drag so I didn’t get lost (see Cedar Rapids).
The street is called El Camino Real. Very cool. But it’s one long strip mall. Store after store, parking lot, road. At the time I’m out it’s usually a little foggy and cool, and there are very few cars. No lights in the stores.
One morning I decide to go left instead of right out the door of the hotel. Pretty much the same, except I see a car coming down the road, turn in and park across the street from me. You can see the exhaust from his car.
A guy gets out and goes into a store. I look at the sign and it’s a peep show. Tuesday 6am.
SARANAC LAKE, NEW YORK
Saranac Lake is next to Lake Placid NY, where they held a winter Olympics in 1980. It’s all the way up near the Canadian border (some TV channels are in French). Beautiful, unique area. However, you’ve got to be aware of the seasons before you go out and run. If it’s spring, look for a gym with a treadmill.
The black flies will eat you alive. There are casualties.
If it’s winter, bundle up, but you’re in for a treat. The attitude towards winter is very different – sort of like, sure it’s cold, what did you expect? In fact, in the winter they hold the Ice Festival, where in the middle of town, on top of the frozen pond, they saw out ice and build an Ice Palace. Extremely cool.
I think downtown Chicago is one of the prime running cities in the world. I love it. And I always bring a wind-breaker or a thermal top. For urban running, it’s second only to NYC, which is, hands-down, the best.
However, Chicago taught me a bitter lesson about my mortality.
It was an extremely bitter day, but no snow on the ground. My hotel was just a hop, skip, and a jump from Michigan Avenue. I was there for a speaking engagement which wasn’t until 10, and I could not resist.
I was flailing my arms and turning my shoulders to try and warm up as I turned onto Michigan.
Almost immediately, I tripped on a hole in the sidewalk and fell on my face.
I sat down on the steps of a department store to take stock and catch my breath. My main concern was my face. A kind gentleman stopped and asked me if I was OK. I wiped my face with my gloved hand. No blood. So I said yes, thanks. I got up and noticed my ankle was sore but figured I could run through it. About a mile later I realized I couldn’t and limped back to the hotel, absolutely frozen.
Apparently I had ripped the ligaments in my ankle and it was swollen beyond belief, way beyond what I could cram into my shoe, even after ice.
You get the test, and then you get the lesson.
CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA
Cedar Rapids is a beautiful town, and the people are special – Midwestern values, unfailingly polite, genuinely caring. Downtown is laid out like a grid, and has the skyways (like Minneapolis) so you can get around in the harsh winters. Also, a terrific, clean airport that’s easy to navigate, has decent food and the people smile and say please and thank you.
I was staying downtown at a very nice hotel, but had one drawback much like the scene from the film “My Cousin Vinny”. An endless freight train went noisily through town at 4:30am on my first night there. I asked the desk clerk if this always happens, who replied no, the train was late, it usually comes through at 3:30am.
I spoke to my client who helped me find a hotel just outside of town. Much quieter at night, and had a regular bus service to downtown.
On my first morning I got up, laced up and headed out. A beautiful morning with the sun just coming up. I figured I’d do a big circle, be back in about a ½ hour and meet everyone else for breakfast. Straight, left, right, right, right, left.
Towards the end of the run, as I made my last right, I found that all the street names were different. Two ideas became apparent.
1. The suburbs were not laid out in a grid. 2. I was extremely lost.
On the advise of my long-time friend Rick Fish, when in a new city I always run with a $20 in my shoe, just in case I pull a muscle or get lost and need to take a cab. I was definitely lost, but there were definitely no cabs in the post-dawn haze of this rural neighborhood. There wasn’t even anyone on the street.
I started following cars on the logic that I’m in a residential neighborhood and people have to get out and go to work. Odds are they’re headed towards a main road. Sure enough, I get to a commercial area and find a convenience store that’s open.
My first time in Houston was in the summer. I think someone told me Houston was built on a swamp (like DC) and I believe them. It was unbearably hot, thick, and smelly (it did not help that my client was in the trash removal business). The air took on an actual presence. All I wanted to do was shower.
My client was just relo-ed from LA. He came ahead with his family to join him before school started. One day I heard him on the phone to his wife saying, oh yes, it’s mid-70’s and clear, can’t wait to see you. I said, James, what are you doing – it’s 95, humid and disgusting? He said, Scott, this is clearly a moment where the truth will never work.
My hotel was in an uninteresting area full of parking lots and manufacturing sites. I didn’t make a difference because the only time I got to run was before the sun came up.
One early morning I went out on a particularly hot, dark, dense, sticky morning. No stars, no moon, dark. I got about a hundred yards from the hotel when the heavy clouds lit up with lightning and let loose a clap of thunder like I had never heard before.
I beat a hasty retreat.
I had a speaking engagement with a marketing club, and the folks they sent to meet me at the airport could not have been more wonderful. They put me up in a old farmhouse turned B&B. My room was gorgeous, all antiques and atmosphere, with a big bed, fluffy pillows, and a down comforter. As there were not quite 8 hours between the time I checked in and my pick-up, I hastened to that bed. Hence, the first part of my story.
I turned off the light and pulled the covers up, and I thought I felt something tapping at the end of the bed. I turned on the light and saw nothing.
Again I turned off the light, scrunched down, and felt as if someone had the edge of the comforter by my feet and was kind of making ripples.
As the last of the light disappeared I looked down at the foot of the bed and thought I saw the silhouette of a young girl. Nah.
I know I didn’t have a lot of time, but I couldn’t resist a run and got up early. My first sight was cows. Odd looking cows with a stripe around their middle. I have come to learn these are Belted Galloway Cows, which originated from the highlands of Scotland. Farmers call these “Belties”. I call them really odd looking.
The rest of the run was terrific. Whatever jet lag or sleep deprivation melted away with lush farmland, a gentle up and down to the terrain, and not another soul in sight.
Later, checking out, I casually asked the lady behind the desk, jokingly, if the farmhouse was haunted. “Oh yes”, she said, “people say there’s a young girl whose ghost appears in guest rooms, but I’ve never seen her”.
I’ve been to Atlanta many times and I love the city, except during ice storms. This one particular time I wasn’t downtown, but was outside center city. Up early so I’d have time for breakfast before my pick-up.
Out the door and turned left. The land was flat and the air was warm and fragrant. I wasn’t feeling great, but the first mile always sucks. Always.
I got to a major intersection and, looking both ways as my Mom taught me, I see a car coming very fast down the road to my left. I’m watching and waiting for him to pass. He goes screaming past me and as he gets to the intersection I see in my peripheral vision a car coming very fast from my right.
There were no brakes, no screeching tires, just the sound of the fury of two cars colliding. The car on the right had turned right so they hit almost side to side. A windshield popped out. A tire continued on its way.
I first stood there stunned and then went into hyperdrive.
Amazingly, both drivers got out of their cars and said they were not hurt. The smoking cars were totaled. I ran back to the hotel and got the clerk to call 911.
End of my run.