According to Strava, a GPS app that records athletic activities and shares them with other athletes, I have run the Riverwalk Mile, a tree-covered path that follows the Black Warrior River in my town of Tuscaloosa 183 times. It is my most covered route — sometimes running it upwards of six times in one session where I am deep into the teeth of marathon training. I like it mostly because it is flat, but also because it is quiet — there are no cars that can impede my progress — trucks making hard lefts well after the light turns red, causing me to spike my shuffling feet into the ground to prevent taking a front bumper to the hip.
When I reach the end of the Riverwalk, there is a long incline that weaves through the residential halls of the University of Alabama’s campus before depositing me on the corner of University Boulevard and Hackberry Lane, one of the busiest intersections in town. From here, I run west past the quad and academic buildings, before the sidewalk dips briefly past the supermarket, then up a steep hill bridging campus and downtown. It is here where the variables of the run increase: the trio of sorority girls walking slowly, sprawling over the width of the sidewalk. The father in sunglasses holding a to-go bag outside of the restaurant that serves chicken wings. The bicycles that hop the curb because the road got too narrow. Mostly, though, it is the trucks that I want to avoid — windows down, bodies tangled in a cramped back seat, classic rock muffling its way through the speakers. The ones that see my body, squeezed into compression gear, trying to will itself to keep my pace at a respectable number and feel obligated to say something — anything.
Another statistic from my Strava app: I am in 1st place out of all of the runners on the Riverwalk Mile that weigh over 250+ pounds. This is, undoubtedly, the proudest record that I hold. I have run four marathons. I’ve logged 2,555 miles over the past three years. I ran a 2:21 half marathon while I weighed 278 pounds. I would never say that I am a good runner, but I’m not bad at going for a run.
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