When I run Loop 9 at Seven-Mile Park, I’m instantly transported to the place where I grew up, on a farm outside of Waseca.
I knew I was a runner before I was a runner. On summer days, I’d feel a pull to go outside and run. The pull was so strong I couldn’t resist. In the words of Forrest Gump, “I just felt like running.”
I ran around the perimeter of the farm. It wasn’t our farm, it was my grandpa’s farm, but we lived on the property, in a house a stone’s throw from Grandpa’s house.
I ran past the fledging rows of about a dozen trees that Grandpa had just planted, I ran through the two rows of honeysuckle bushes, past the leafless trees killed by the 1980 tornado, past the barn, the steers, the fire barrel for trash, the machine shed, the grove of trees, the grain bins, along the cornfields, past Grandpa’s enormous garden filled with sweet corn, horseradish, onions, and peas.
Sometimes I’d run the field driveway, about one mile, between our place and Uncle Ray’s place. I’d visit my cousin Karen. But more often, I biked the driveway. Karen would meet me halfway at the oak tree, and we’d either go to her house or she’d come to mine.
The path of Loop 9 is like the field driveway. Perhaps a little more overgrown, but still reminiscent. My shoes make the same “swishing” sound now as they did 30 years ago, tamping down grass and weeds slick with dew. The grass, the corn, the soybeans, the trees, all breathing — I feel the hot breath, then and now.
I wasn’t 43 when I ran Loop 9 yesterday. I was 13.