This is the second in our series of “The Business of Running” as told by Rachel’s dad. He’s made his exploration of the United States and beyond his business by bringing sneakers on every trip, and we’re definitely here for it.
Running on the Road
by Scott Hornstein
Running has been an inextricable part of my life for more years than I care to mention (remember, I’m Rachel’s dad) and I have lived a good part of it on the road. For about 20 years if it was Monday morning, I was on the 6am flight to somewhere. My sneakers were always packed.
The question arises, why? Why not sleep a little longer before your day begins, because days on the road are very long. I have 3 responses.
The first is because it brings me some peace. I can pay attention to what’s around me. It quiets some of the voices in my head (and I don’t run with my phone).
The second is clarity. I may not be actively working through my day’s agenda or my to-do list, but my subconscious is working overtime to separate out what really matters and how to achieve it.
The last is to get to know me a little better. While I’m running I’m not dependent on anyone else. I am a self-contained unit moving under my own power. I can push against my limits and understand where they are and how far I can go.
As I said before, 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 more of my stories.
Salt Lake City
When I first arrived in Salt Lake City I was staying in a long-term hotel outside of town and it was, in a word, grim. They had cornered the market in old, cracked plastic. There was an odor in the halls that was vaguely reminiscent of doom.
Cheerfully, I went out the first morning for a slow easy run. I came back exhausted, asking myself why was that so hard?
Am I getting sick? Is something wrong?
Slouching to the elevator I passed a rack of brochures singing the praises of tours, mountains, parks, activities, and of Salt Lake City. I picked up the brochure and found that I was now over 4000 feet above sea level. My home is just over 400 feet above. Aha.
This turned into a real boon for me. I had just started entering the shorter distance races near my home to bolster my enthusiasm, or at least to keep my training somewhat serious. I started to really enjoy the races – the camaraderie, the experience of putting the pedal down (it is called a race after all). I viewed my competition as myself.
I should point out that my time in Salt Lake was no different than any other assignment I’ve had. Monday – Thursday I was there. And Monday – Thursday I began to build up my endurance.
That summer, in a race in Bridgeport, on a flat course by the beach, I ran my personal best or PR.
Portland is beautiful. Parks throughout the city. Unique architecture. A people-friendly place (with great wine and otherworldly salmon).
It’s one of the most distinctive cities I’ve ever been in.
My client was outside the city in a nondescript industrial park, but fortunately all the hotels were downtown.
Running in the morning, in the cool crisp air was glorious and, for awhile, made me forget about the crushing jet lag. The buildings are not tall so the sky was a constant companion. The many parks offered a sense of calm (though Portland did have, at that time, a homeless issue).
The best part was going down to run beside the Willamette River. Whoever designed this city really thought about this part. It’s thrilling. Reminds me of Paris and running by the Seine.
There was a no-tell hotel right next to my client in Indianapolis so I was stuck in an industrial area. I was separated from their office complex by a parking lot. On the other side was a highway. In the spring and summer, it’s fine for running. It gets light early and there’s long stretches of road. Not very interesting, but fine.
With one exception. At the end of the industrial park was a vacant lot. It was obviously within the border of the park and would someday by developed, but for now, someone had planted corn.
In the winter it was pitch black in the early morning. Wisdom would say stay inside on the treadmill (dread-mill), but unless it’s raining I’ll always opt for outside. And the morning I decided that despite the chill, outside was better, proved me wrong.
There was no moon, no stars, no streetlights. I knew where I was and felt somewhat OK. I was running on the side of the road (I thought) that paralleled the highway. I saw lights in the distance coming toward me. I got as far over to the left as I could – I knew that at some point the shoulder fell off into a ditch, and I wanted to avoid that.
The lights got very big and very bright very fast and as I felt the air being pushed in front of the highballing truck I took a dive. I was muddy, scared, and limped back to the hotel on my turned ankle.
I love this story. My client was Caesars Pocono Resorts, a “honeymoon” destination famous for the champagne glass whirlpool. That notwithstanding, I have enormous respect for these guys as fearless marketers.
An aside: if you want to know the meaning of life, sleep by yourself in a room with no windows, a heart-shaped tub, and a round bed. Open your eyes in the morning to discover the mirror over the bed.
I had been on the account several years when they brought on a new guy for “yield management”. He was young, personable, and eager to make his mark. We got along well and over dinner the subject of running came up. I asked if he would like to take a short run in the morning.
Think you can keep up, he asked? Probably not, I said, I’m slow, and I’ve got 20 years on you.
We met at 6:30 am by the resort’s gym. It was warm already. I said I know a 2.5 mile loop and he agreed, adding the term “old man”. He started very strong and I knew I could not keep up, and if I did I would flame out half way through. I kept to my pace. He did some showboating, pacing me running backwards, and a little old man trash.
I was laughing. I knew the course and I knew that the first half was deceptive, because it was a slow downhill.
Scott’s second law of running says that if the “out” is primarily downhill, the “back” will be a bitch.
BTW: Scott’s first law of running says that if you are running on a 2 way street and there is a car coming from ahead and one from behind, regardless of the speed of either vehicle, or you, all parties will converge at exactly the same spot at the same time.
We left the resort and he took off, turning his head to say, I’ll wait for you around that bend ahead. And he did. We took the second bend and began our way back. It was like step hills – steep and then flat, repeat. Looking at the last one he turned Gumby and started to walk.
I turned my head and said, I’ll wait for you at the top.
The first few times down in Jacksonville I stayed near my client’s office in one of the look-alike hotels that bear different names. It was on a look-alike plot of land predictably next to a highway. Grim but doable.
After work one-day I got in the car and went south, down by the ocean and a new miles down found the wonderful Inn at Ponte Vedra Beach. A gorgeous resort, on the water, and within 20 minutes of the office. The people at the front desk were very nice, and the manager expressed a willingness to cut us a deal for rooms Monday – Thursday. Just unbelievable luck.
In the morning, I would walk down out of my room, down a few stairs, and I’d be on the patio, with 2 steps down to the beach. The surfers would be sitting in the hotel’s spa, putting on their wet suits. Fortunately the sand was packed and runnable down by the water line.
Running on the beach is like nothing else. First of all, it’s difficult. It tests your balance and endurance. It gets you in great shape.
Then there is, what is for me, a more sensory, spiritual aspect. The sky, the water, the smells. They come together for me so that I really feel alive, like I am right there, right then, and hitting my goal is all that matters.
One day after my run, I was cooling off watching the surfing. One guy caught a wave and stood up. And right behind him, so he couldn’t see it, a big black fin appeared. Oh no, I said, I can’t be seeing this.
I started to run to the water, yelling and waving my arms, but the guy didn’t see me. The fin took a burst of speed and in the wave,
I saw the dolphin.
Stories by Scott Hornstein