What better way to spend an NC running farewell than in my absolute favorite place to run in the Triangle? As usual, Umstead Park delivered. . .and then some. This was a run quite like none I’ve ever experienced before. Within a mere 12 miles, Melissa and I saw the best and worst that NC and Umstead have to offer runners, and most certainly the best and worst of my NC running experiences the past two years.
Oh, how I can love and hate running here! Let me count the ways. . .
#1: Humidity. It started off a gorgeous May day. . .or so I thought. To the naked, non-running eye, it was just that:
For running, though, conditions were not ideal. Rather, and a bit to my dismay, conditions were a bit muggy and just warm enough to appear a beautiful day for a run but really only equaled gallons of shin sweat by mile 2 of 12:
OK, North Carolina. I suppose it’s only right that you stick me with muggy weather my last weekend here. Indeed, it did!
#2: The most randomly awesome interactions with perfect strangers. A water refill – yes, already! – and quick potty break later, we were off to start counting down the next ten miles. Not long after we started, we crossed paths with a few bikers. As he passed, the first guy tells us, “Yell ‘Go, Mac!’ to the guy in the gray shirt behind me.” How did we respond, you ask? How else?! With two words: “Got it!”
A few moments later, Mac and his gray shirt made his way up one of the inclines denoting ‘the corkscrew.’ I threw my hands up in the air and shouted as loud as I could at the moment: “GO, Mac! WUUUHOOOOO!!!”
#3: Uninvited insects. About another mile or so later, my conversation with Melissa – and my stride – were interrupted by a massive, dive-bombing fly that insisted upon flying circles around me as I fought uphill, just missing my face by what I swear had to be a hair with each swoop.
Did I mention I had seen Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ for the first time the previous evening and had since been swatting at the slightest hint of an insect anywhere near my arms or head?
#4: Windy, rolling hills amidst gorgeous, secluded scenery. Although I had hoped for a mostly flat run, the incline was worth it to find us in my favorite part of Umstead. It reminded me of one of my favorite trail running spots in Denver, and I always feel more at home when I’m there.
#5: Eye candy of the most delectable, tasty, and delicious kind. ‘Nuff said. Melissa and I had seen lots of eye candy throughout the miles, and we always reacted the same way: Once sure we were out of earshot, either of us would point out the obvious, “Damn! He is hot!” ALWAYS followed by the question, “Where can we find more of you?!”
Unfortunately, I don’t have a visual of this one to share with you. Believe me, though, when I tell you that this single girl took a mental picture of the shirtless, chiseled, tattooed hottie body.
#6: Cool, drizzly, “Aaaaahhhhh” rain. Melissa had promised to buy us an iced coffee and iced chai latte at Starbucks after our run as motivation to beat the heat and hills to the end. That changed, though, when we ran into light, refreshing rain our last 2 1/2 or so miles that left us drenched but most grateful to Mother Nature.
We got hot coffee and a hot chai latte at Starbucks afterward instead.
This was my last run in Umstead Park before I moved. I knew it wouldn’t be my last, but I had no idea of when my next one would be. I couldn’t imagine anything more appropriate by which to remember Umstead until we meet again.
As if this weren’t enough, Melissa stopped by earlier to see me once more before I head out in the morning. She called in a favor to add to my ‘Bahston Runnah‘ shirt I blogged about following Melissa’s MONSTER marathon PR:
All in all, I had the fondest of farewells. Really, though, the past few days were not a farewell at all. Rather, they serve as more of a reminder of all that awaits me upon a return visit.
Farewell not. You haven’t seen the last of me, NC.
Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.