Trees are the answer

by Kim on July 10, 2013 · 32 comments

Suburban Ohio in the summer is not an easy place to re-launch a running habit.

For one thing, it’s a million degrees outside plus humidity. For another, it’s boring as hell. There’s nothing to look at out here on the roads, no distractions. The houses in the neighborhoods are uniform, three or four different models replicated up and down the street. Gigantic all-terrain vehicles are parked in every driveway. This, alone, is interesting because there isn’t much by way of terrain here. It’s just flat, flat, and more flat.

shadows

I have this friend in Savannah who says, “Trees are the answer!” when she is confronted with an unanswerable question. How can we achieve world peace? Trees are the answer! I think of her often as I run on these exposed and scorching sidewalks, the intense Midwestern sun beating down on me. “Trees are the answer, ya’ll,” I say to myself, borrowing her southern drawl.

There are trees in these sub-divisions but they are inaccessible. They’re planted in backyards, held back like a rowdy, roped-off crowd. Meanwhile, the houses sit like someone has stolen their clothes, just baking in the sun. Why not plant trees where the community can enjoy them? I wonder as I trudge down the sweltering street. Why not shade the sidewalk so a run through the neighborhood doesn’t feel like a jog through the seven dimensions of hell?

Trees would definitely be the answer here, ya’ll.

Anyway, there are no trees on this sunbaked sidewalk so I spend my time in a constant pep talk of self-motivation, trying to save myself from the negative thoughts that stream out of me with my sweat. I run in endless loops on cul-de-sacs ironically named Forest Run Road and Elm Hill and I say to myself:

“Run the mile you are in.”

I say:

“Take it step by step.”

And sometimes:

“I know it’s hot but THIS WON’T KILL YOU. Suck it up, get it over with and STOP WHINING YOU BABY.”

Running is such a mental game.

Other times, I trick myself. I bargain. I say: “Just run to that stop sign and then you can take a break.” And then I reach the stop sign and say, “The next one.” Then, “The next one.” I keep myself going that way. I break miles into yards into feet. I tell myself, “You’re strong. You can do this.” I say, “It’s not supposed to be easy.”

In truth, it is hard to stay positive while baking alive on the sidewalk.

But I have a new technique. I find the little things, the beautiful things that hide everywhere, and I point them out to myself. I say: “God, thank you for that beautiful bundle of hydrangeas. Universe, thank you for that rock shaped like a cupcake.” It’s like a scavenger hunt. “Thank you for that striking red cardinal perched on the fence. Thank you for that cool breeze that just swept by.”

I run past a two-story brick house, navy shutters, manicured lawn, with a For Sale sign stuck in the yard. The sign says, “I’m gorgeous inside.” I say, “Thank you for the reminder that I am gorgeous inside.”

Yesterday, Brian and I went to my parent’s house for dinner. They live in a nearby suburb filled with other cul-de-sacs and other SUV’s. We hurdled down the highway past a sprawling mall and an industrial area with big box stores and warehouses. Aside from other humans in other cars, there was not a single living thing in sight.

But then, there amongst the concrete overpasses and faded billboards was one lone tree. A single, waving, leafy tree, as green as the paddies in Asia. It stood alone, a stubborn old holdout refusing to give up his ground. I looked out the window at that beautiful tree. “God,” I whispered, “thank you for that tree.”

Trees are the answer.

But lacking trees, gratitude is also a good answer, ya’ll.

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Patti July 10, 2013 at 8:38 am

Use your imagination and paint a picture in your mind that you’re running on one of the beautiful beaches you’ve run on throughout your travels and that the pounding of the cement sidewalk under your feet is actually hot hard baked sand. Maybe you can fool yourself into believing – if not, trees are good.
Patti recently posted..The Iconic Route 66 ~

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Kim July 10, 2013 at 11:05 am

I will try (though, to tell you the truth, I don’t know how good I’ll do). It’s hard to draw a comparison between those beaches of Indonesia and the suburbs of Ohio!

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Carina July 10, 2013 at 8:42 am

Roots. That’s the reason not to put trees near sidewalks. I actually run in the street usually because, while Dallas doesn’t have many trees, any that are remotely near the sidewalk have developed roots causing the sidewalk to buckle, creating sometimes over an inch of variance between slabs and huge cracks. Guess the grass is always greener. But I like your grateful perspective! I should focus on how much I love running, how grateful I am to be able to physically do it, how happy I am to live somewhere that may be a sauna in the summer but is lovely in the winter, how grateful I am that the trees have grown to ruin the sidewalk but still provide some shade for the road where I run…
Carina recently posted..Growing Pains

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Kim July 10, 2013 at 11:05 am

Oh man, give me buckled sidewalks and shade! There are tons of shady streets in Portland and roots never seemed to be a problem there… maybe they’ve planted some sort of magical, short-rooted tree?

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nicole July 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm

there’s always my personal favorite: portable shade (ie: a parasol). I never leave home without and boy am I thankful it exists. =)
nicole recently posted..Wednesday’s Wonder: The Most Pleasant Poop Ever

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Kim July 10, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Ha, I can imagine the looks I’d get running with a parasol! But, really, I need one with this insane sunshine.

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Carmel July 10, 2013 at 1:25 pm

And at the end of the run, THANK YOU FOR COLD WATER! I thought about that water a lot as I started running again yesterday in the 87 degree weather. But I had trees lining the way most of my run. I guess your story is a good reminder to be thankful for the abundance rather than just always assume it’ll be there.
Carmel recently posted..STOP COLLECTING, START EXPERIENCING

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Kim July 10, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Yes! Thank you for cold water!!! Congrats for starting your running again. I know how hard it is, since I’m there myself. XO

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Amanda July 10, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Hahahahaha :) I love this and I love you! Trees seriously are the answer! J and I STILL say it just about every single scorching day down here! And you’re totally right, gratitude to change the attitude, is pretty sweet too.

Can’t wait to see ya’ll . . . SOON!

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Kim July 10, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Lady, TREES ARE THE ANSWER! Love you too. Sooo looking forward to camping :)

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Kaleena's Kaleidoscope July 10, 2013 at 9:30 pm

When I used to run on the streets in my neighborhood I would play a game with street signs and try to follow them. There only seemed to be “no stopping” signs, though, so I would take them literally and push myself to keep going. I love seeing and appreciating the beauty in little things along the way, too. I injured my knee and will never run distances again, but I still remember taking in all the details of my surroundings when running because they were things I otherwise wouldn’t notice. I was grateful for that. Running is such a good exercise for the body AND the mind. :)
Kaleena’s Kaleidoscope recently posted..A Day at Suseong Pond–I Mean Lake

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Kim July 11, 2013 at 7:59 am

I love it “NO stopping signs!” Perfect. That’s what I will envision on my next run.

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Aurora July 11, 2013 at 8:08 am

Damn – you’re a better runner than I (even when I wasn’t injured) – running in the heat, humidity and full day light?!

But leaving your heroic efforts aside, I love this sentiment. Living in a concrete jungle (and knowing me – how much I love mountains), sometimes it is easy to get swayed into just being annoyed by it all. Instead, I push myself to really see people, stores, buildings, things happening around me and listen. Inevitably, I see something or hear something that makes me smile.

Good reminder for my day. and my days hereafter.
Aurora recently posted..Glimpses of humanity

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Kim July 11, 2013 at 11:27 am

It’s there, you know? You just sometimes have to look a little harder.

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Anne July 11, 2013 at 8:57 am

Now, Kim c’mon- weren’t you in India earlier this summer? I’ve been to India in May and it’s HOT!

But seriously, I agree with you, it’s very hard to run on flat terrain (Thank you Mother Nature, for HILLS!) And it’s hard to run with nothing to look at. Brains require distraction, otherwise they try to talk you out of running!

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Kim July 11, 2013 at 11:33 am

We left India the first of April because it was TOO DARN HOT! I ran listening to a podcast today so the hour went by quickly. Usually I like to run without distraction when I am in the forest (no ipod or anything) but the suburbs require distraction!

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Ashley July 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

Kim, go run in the woods!! Why are you subjecting yourself to torture in the suburbs?!? Call me if you want ideas of where to go or a trail running buddy :) love, Ashley Licari

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Kim July 11, 2013 at 11:33 am

Ashley! Tell me where to go!!! I would love tips AND a running buddy. I’m just running in the burbs because it’s easy and I don’t have to drive anywhere… but I’d gladly drive to meet you.

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Jessica July 11, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Hi Kim, I really enjoyed your article about running Ohio. I grew up in rural Ohio so there were lots of trees and hills, but I certainly remember (and do not miss) that thick, sticky humidity during the summer months! Good for you for being able to motivate yourself to keep running in the heat–I certainly could not do that!

And thanks again for your tips on starting a travel blog, we just finally got our website finished this last week!!!
Jessica recently posted..When you Still Want to Hold a Real Book: Tips for Traveling with Books

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Kim July 12, 2013 at 5:40 am

Yep, humidity in Ohio is not something I missed living in Oregon! Glad your site is finished!

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Casey @ A Cruising Couple July 12, 2013 at 2:12 am

Love this! I may or may not have an obsession with tree lined boulevards that Dan always makes fun of. When we were training for our first marathon we began by running through chaotic Taiwanese city streets. It took about two short runs to realize the time it took to drive somewhere scenic was totally worth it, especially for those long runs! Running is definitely all mental-if I don’t have music to distract me then I’m hopeless!
Casey @ A Cruising Couple recently posted..Big Life Changes – What the Heck Are We Thinking?!

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Kim July 12, 2013 at 5:41 am

Oh yeah, definitely worth it during those long runs (and maybe the shorter runs too, I’m starting to realize). I’m impressed you trained for a marathon in Taiwan!

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Brian July 12, 2013 at 6:54 am

Trees ARE the answer!! I guess this just means we have to go out hiking more often :-).
Brian recently posted..Forking Over the Discoveries

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Kim July 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm

YES. Want to go now?

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Sarah Somewhere July 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm

You paint the picture so well, Kim. It’s great that you have found so much gratitude being back in the states. Hold on!!! :)
Sarah Somewhere recently posted..School’s out for Summer! Instagram photo reel

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Kim July 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I’m holding on as tight as I can!

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Ashlie July 14, 2013 at 7:13 am

The good thing about being home (aside from the doggies!) is being able to have a routine for awhile. Especially when it comes to exercise. I’m desperate to get back to a regular yoga schedule and just have to find a way to make it work when on the road. I’m a much happier girl when that happens!
Ashlie recently posted..Photo Journal: The Annapurna Circuit

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Kim July 14, 2013 at 9:09 am

Totally agree! I’m happy to be running again every day. Also: grocery stores and having a kitchen. I think my body will like we again by the end of the summer.

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TammyOnTheMove July 14, 2013 at 7:05 pm

I felt exactly like you when I was back in England in April this year. I just couldn’t believe how everything was still the same when I have changed so much over the past two years. I was only there for 3 weeks, so it wasn’t too bad, but I couldn’t wait to get out of there again. It just felt so suffocating.
TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Flashback Friday: The day I met my husband’s doppelganger

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Kim July 15, 2013 at 5:13 am

Ah, yes, I know. I am trying to stay wide-open and taken each place for what it is. So far it’s working pretty well!

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Mike McEnnerney July 15, 2013 at 1:27 am

Kim, I always love reading your posts, and look forward to the next, keep them coming :0)
(Ps, Trees are the answer, we need to plant more trees)
Mike McEnnerney recently posted..There comes a t…

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Kim July 15, 2013 at 5:16 am

THanks Mike. (P.S. I totally agree)

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