Everyone has stomping grounds. But for a runner, stomping grounds probably has a different meaning than where you went to the movies as a kid or teenager, or where you hung out at the mall with your no-good friends. For runners, stomping grounds really are STOMPING GROUNDS!
I recently spent some time back in my hometown of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Huntingdon is one of those towns that seems the same today as it did when I last visited there (2016) or last lived there (1987) or even first moved there (1966 – I think). It is the quintessential small town in central Pennsylvania, complete with all the quirks, uniqueness and beauty.
I have some vivid memories of those early running days in my hometown. Fortunately, State College (the home of Penn State University) is less than an hour’s drive, meaning running shoes were somewhat easy to find. The first time I wore tights was also the last time I wore them for about two dozen years. And people didn’t yell “Run Forrest Run,” at least not until 1994.
Running in a rural community isn’t quite as odd as it was years ago. In fact, there’s a pretty solid running community in just about every small town in the U.S. Two years ago, one of my father’s neighbors, who knows I’m a lifelong runner, introduced me to four running locals. They immediately invited me to join them in the Saturday “long run.” I bet there are “long run” Saturdays in almost every town around.
One of the four couldn’t join us but the rest of us headed out for a wonderfully pleasant 12-mile run through the roads and neighborhoods where I had grown up and had run off and on for the past 50-plus years. I’ve often said if you just give me 15 minutes at a gathering of any runners and I’ll have dinner companions and a place to sleep for the night. I didn’t need the bed, but it was great having locals to stomp away the miles.
Everyone has stomping grounds. But for a runner, stomping grounds probably has a different meaning than where you went to the movies as a kid or teenager, or where you hung out at the mall with your no-good friends (we all had no-good friends, according to our parents). For runners, stomping grounds really are STOMPING GROUNDS!
On my recent trip home, I had my agenda of where I wanted to run. I had four days and I used them well. I spent a morning on the track at Juniata College, pretending I was still as fast as I was in 1985 when I last raced there. Another day was spent on my favorite 10-mile run up Stony Creek Ridge, which starts at 600 feet of elevation and tops out at 1,100 approximately 1.5 miles later. Apparently, I’d forgotten I’ve lived in Delaware the past 25 years. And one morning was spent zigzagging the streets of downtown.
One “stomp” that I’d never done was the 1,000 steps climb up Jack’s Mountain. I can’t count the number of times I’d driven by the trail head, but this trip, I had some time and decided to give it a go. The sign said the trail was 1/3 of a mile (false advertising) and it was 1,000 steps to the overlook (a blatant lie!). It took me 17:11 to make the ascent and a lot longer to make the descent. But yeah, I stomped it.
If you’re a lifelong runner and have run your share of the streets and by-ways of your long-ago local community, there’s a great sense of joy in running those old roads, tracks and trails. And if you’re relatively new to the sport and never ran when you lived wherever you lived, going back and stomping around is a great way to see some things you may have never had an awareness existed.
I’m glad to be back home in Delaware, with my family and my local no-good friends and my familiar running routes. But going back to the old stomping grounds where I grew up and still have no-good friends is a great way to reconnect with lots of things, including those early days of running. Stomp on!
Former standout Lock Haven University runner Andy Shearer is a member of the Middletown Athletic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and USA Track and Field.