"It's that time of year again."
OK. So I actually don't really use that phrase too often, but still. What I'm trying to say is that the first trees are changing and I can no longer deny that with every fluttering leaf that drops, the flora and fauna of my heart be...no, no, no.
Let me start over.
Even though it's hard for me to pick things out and label them as "favorite" and "best," I've decided that Fall is both the best and my favorite season. I don't know how it came to be that way; I never grew up with those American autumnal staples like football, apple cider or sweatshirts with turtlenecks underneath.
In fact, I used to dislike the Fall just because it basically meant that I would have to wear sweatshirts with turtlenecks underneath.
And I hate sweatshirts!
OK, not really. It just meant that playing outside was coming to a close end and then I'd be stuck inside with my family.
Um, no thanks.
But somewhere along the line, I began to like the Fall.
Well, not just "somewhere." I know where it began, goshdarnit, and I'm not ashamed to admit it! It started with cross country. I know that sounds really dorky...but whatevs, yo. Cross country is dorky! But that's where it started and you're going to have to accept that about me.
You see, after a month of hot weather, the season quickly changed to cool, brisk afternoons that make running 60 minutes of hills much more bearable
Then came the races themselves. Set against a changing backdrop of red, orange and yellow, the meets were both exciting and familiar. Exciting because you never knew where your legs would--or wouldn't--take you that day. (At least that's my definition of "exciting." You?)
Familiar because there was Mr. Bartoli, in the same spot, bellowing the same cheer, giving you that same feeling of pride and competitiveness. Or at least making you feel like The Thundering Herd wasn't such a bad mascot after all.
Saturday races--invitationals, mind you--were the best; hundreds of runners AND the chance to medal. The excitement here came from the large field and not knowing the other teams' ability, or even geography. I mean, I still don't know where exactly Emmaus is.
And I hope I never find out.
Oh yeah! And each team had a tent where ear-muffed parents diligently setup the post-race meal: steaming chilli, a cornucopia of chips and dip I'd have never found in my own pantry, fresh fruit and Gatorade galore...all this complemented with the menthotastic hint of Flex-All wafting through the air.
Can you feel it? No, not that. The burning chill inside your nostrils. Yeah! That's it!
By 1PM we were back on the bus, watching Nature's Change whiz by, on our way to Saturdee night's activities-which included, but were not limited to, a bunch of girliness, smelly markers, and, of course, more Flex-All.
My autumns at SU came both with and without running, mostly due to knee issues. Either way, Central NY provided an awesome substitute for the glory days of CHS XC with its most beautiful trees and many an apple festival.
Ever since that first Fall, I've found it impossible to disassociate the season with running.
The crunchy colors. The earthen air. The smell of tree bark changing--thickening for winter--but only when I'm running by it.
There have been times when I couldn't run, times where I just didn't, and times where I didn't know which one it was.
But now this Fall, as I prepare for the biggest running event in my life to date, I realize that over the past ten years running has never really left me.
Nor I running.
And this realization came on this Saturday's run when I noticed the first leaf fall on the trail before me. It was mile 8 of 14…