Atlanta is a special treat
for runners! No monotonous flatland is it!
Hills, hills, hills. Enough undulating ground for any runner.
Hills present a challenge for the runner
-- they force him/her to concentrate on the road -- look only at the asphalt
-- you don't notice the scenery on hills.
Only on the flats do you have the luxury
to appreciate the scenery,
to enjoy the surroundings.
There are so many runners in Atlanta.
Pick a cold, rainy, windy day --
look out your window or watch while driving -- most likely you'll see at least one runner.
Pick Thanksgiving day, Christmas day, runners are on the roads of Atlanta!
Its such fun to listen and watch while running in Atlanta --
you'll hear the sounds of civilization on the main streets
-- cars and the wind of passing cars.
But, go to the side streets to get away from the hustle and bustle. You'll see squirrels, cats, and occasionally a rabbit.
You'll surely see and hear dogs. What to do when confronted by a (ferocious?) dog on the street?
My approach is to run
towards the dog, arms flailing, yell at the top of your
This offensive mode tends to scare away most dogs!
After running the same street, you'll get to know the dogs.
Some are trapped and menacing behind fences labelled "Beware of Dog."
These are the ones that you have fun with -- the closer you approach their domain, the more noise you make, the meaner they appear, the louder they bark!
Some dogs are free in the street-- they try to run with you, owners admonishing their actions, but they keep running until some unknown force pulls them away.
Running in Atlanta is "seasonal running."
This means that you have to be prepared for any kind of weather if you run a temporal pattern, particularly in the winter.
Monday can be nearly warm with clear skies, Wednesday can be cool and cloudy, while Friday can be cold and windy! You have to be able to adjust.
Then, there's the punishing
summer, so hot that you want to run naked
-- but its only during the summer that you feel the maximum exhaustion and the complete benefits of running.
In the summer you long for cooler weather,
in the winter you long for warmth!
But the springtime and fall are best,
not too cold, not too hot!
The beauty of the changing seasons --
blooming flowers, multicolored leaves, refreshing light winds.
Ah, the joy of running in Atlanta!
the most remote atoll in all the world, at the center of the northern Pacific Ocean!
can be experienced by only the very few --
for the island is off-limits to all but legitimate workers.
This island is no paradise like Hawaii -- no hills of green, no waterfalls, no broad beaches, no parks!
No signs of wealth -- homes,
hotels, or skyscrapers.
No tourists, no shopping malls! Can running at such a foreign place be pleasant? What does this faraway atoll offer the runner?
The island does have advantages:
Its remoteness is exhilarating to the runner -- just the knowledge that no one can be running within hundreds of miles is peaceful --
it forces you to reflect, to consider life, to think about why you are on this planet, what is your mission here?
This deliberation is something you don't have time for while running on the mainland --
there you are likely concentrating on the omnipresent life around you, the noise, the cars, the dogs, the kids.
Its only at such a
remote location that you really have the luxury
and the inclination to contemplate your role in the world,
unencumbered by outside pressures and other beings.
If you are a visitor staying at "redwood village,"
you might begin running by the tallest building on the island,
the four-story joint operations center (JOC), no windows but at least a library with two-week old newspapers!
Now go past
the "golf course", only three holes, but nice palm trees!
From there, why not continue by the island commander's small home, next the "Tradewinds" club,
and the "yacht club" with a few sailboats.
Are any boats out today or is it too windy?
From here you can jog through the shipping docks, are there any tall barges with life's supplies? Look at the giant cranes, imagine them as whatever you wish, perhaps jurassic dinosaurs!
You have the luxury here to
Now you've reached an open, unpaved road, its time to speed up!
Concentrate on the sea, the crashing noise belying distant breakers.
See the huge concrete blocks below the road that protect the island from storms!
Down this road you'll reach the island dump, look closely while running,
you'll see the interesting detritus of long-departed islanders,
rusting hulks of driverless vehicles, some with recognizable functions, others mysterious mechanical apparitions with no observable purpose.
Can you spot the burned out computer terminals
no longer signaling consequential events?
How long ago were these left and by whom?
What were the names of the people who used these, where are they now? Do they remember this remote place?
Now we've come past the island warning sign,
hopefully green, but maybe yellow or red! If green, continue down the roadway past the shell beach.
If red or yellow, get back to civilization!
You've now reached the fenced
"dioxin area," legacy of the Vietnam war.
Skirting this area to the left, you can run past the end of the island runway,
chances are you'll see no planes as they arrive infrequently!
Cutting left, you continue past the "hills,"
steep-sloped remnants of safety measures from the past,
when rockets were stored and launched.
Between the hills, you'll see strangely-shaped buildings, once storing rockets.
Now you come past the weapons storage areas
and "the plant,"
noisy and lit continuously, with huge concrete protective blocks towards the runway
and even larger breakers towards the sea.
The tall stack of the plant spouts a continuous white plume.
You've now reached a tree-lined road paralleling the
protected and calm, you can almost imagine a forest here.
On your left the second-most important place on the island --
the airport terminal--we're not jogging past the most important this trip -- that's the island dining hall!
Now, cutting right, you'll skirt the runway and fuel dumps.
Time to speed up again,
the end of the run is in sight, the JOC -- you can't miss it!
Turning left at the end of the runway, look to the sea, you'll see the outer islands,
even a building near the loran navigation tower --
can it be even more remote than JI? How many thousands of birds inhabit these islands?
Look up now!
You might see an airplane in the distance,
gliding on approach gingerly, preparing to land on the west end of the runway.
Or, you might spot a barge, travelling through the deep, dredged channel, bringing much-needed supplies, perhaps even food for tonight!
But for now you can coast, the JOC on your right,
the runway left, the huge azure sky above,
knowing you have just completed a 5 to 6 mile run
that only a very few in this world will experience! Just think about that relaxing shower!
The grey wooden dock floats on the shimmering blue water,
rocking to and fro with the gentle summer breeze.
Its planks are weathered heavily by the sun,
the elements, and the feet of unknown sailors.
Deep, lateral grooves testify to heavy equipment
moved onto the boats, perhaps an engine,
a mast, a boom, or a centerboard.
Beyond, beckoning vessels, sleek racing sailboats, tug gently against
their multiple mooring lines, waiting patiently for their absent owners.
The white decks of some boats glisten in the sun,
almost too bright to view.
Their mellow teak woodwork glows softly.
Sailcovers seem woven only yesterday.
Other boats, not so fortunate,
show signs of neglect, frayed and broken lines,
unwashed decks, mildewed sails, and rusty anchor chains.
A few boats seem completely forlorn, their masts removed,
now emasculated and incapable of swift voyages,
they conjure up images of the prison hulks of old England.
Once commissioned and proud,
next battered and reduced to ruin,
only their timbers might relate the signs of better times,
of elegant captains, handsome young lieutenants,
boyish midshipmen, aged sailing masters, the fortunate coxswain, and nameless able-seamen.
their hard-bellied sails drove them over the wild seas
to remote wondrous destinations to perform the king's duty,
known only to the priviledged.
Later, cannons removed, indefensible,
they dolefully wait their inevitable dive to the bottom of the deep sea.
But oh what tales their timbers might tell!
Perhaps some modern boats remember their better days,
floating aimlessly on windless, lazy summer days.
Remember that rare perfect day for
sailing, the wind strong, the waves rolling,
the sun high, the temperature just right!
Remember those caring owners, now what were their names?
Perhaps these forgotten boats long for new owners;
to fly again close-hauled,
to tack with sails flapping wildly until controlled, to breach the waves,
to reach the weather destination.
Perhaps they long for the
sounds of repairs,
for fresh white sails, for unblemished halyards,
for white polished decks, and for smooth, golden teak.
. . . just perhaps.
S. Jay Smith, May, 1993
A featureless, leaden sky shields the sun's paltry rays from the lake,
now uninviting, even menacing.
In this season, the sun can little warm the cold, dark abyss.
The surface is whipped into a frenzy,
punctuated by angry whitecaps.
Waves migrate from the wind's direction,
to elude its fury, to escape its clutch.
On the shores of the lake, trees sway in undulating rhythm,
attuned to the gusts of the wind,
conducted by an unseen maestro to earth's private symphony.
At the dock, the usual jingling of uncountable wind-tossed halyards
against their metallic masts reaches a crescendo,
like a million tiny bells ringing. The symphony continues.
Sailboats, moored tightly for the season,
hibernate like recumbent white bears to escape winter's grasp.
Usually, the dock is filled with the sounds of life:
laughter, repairs, engines running, and shouting above the wind -- but not today.
A far away, lonely apparition on the lake, just visible,
is tossed and flattened by the gusts.
The monohull careens at an uncanny angle
and bursts through the waves.
Brave sailors remain low in the cockpit, bundled against the chilly air.
The winter brings unmatched sailing for the hearty,
for those with sufficient fortitude and stamina to withstand its fury.
To tack close-hauled with unpredictable gusts buffeting the sails
and shaking the rigging intensely is both a mental and physical challenge.
Lines must be pulled at the right moment--else disaster.
Sailors must work carefully to ensure against
mishaps in this weather
--an inadvertent jibe, an unreleased line,
an unavailable winch handle, an unseen swinging boom
can put the boat and the crew in peril.
These challenges demand teamwork, skill, and vision.
Every crew member is important.
None is superfluous.
True winter sailing is only for the best.
S. Jay Smith June, 1993
Time: 7:00 a.m. Sunday Morning
Place: Stockton Island, Cypress Terrace, at Key West, Florida
The stark white walls, floors, and ceilings combine to shield the
runner from the outside climate
. Considering these alone, one expects a cool autumn breeze.
Airconditioning totally distorts the native environment.
Opening the door, one is greeted by a blast of warm, humid air.
It has rained that night and the atmosphere has retained the moisture to punish the runner.
Warming up is a chore, I shorten these exercises to begin the 30~minute run as quickly as possible.
Running here is so different from Atlanta.
First, no other runners are seen.
In Atlanta, at this time of day on a Sunday morning,
one would see many runners at work, here,
perhaps the heat is too great!
Houses are so varied here, as
compared to the standard two~story in Dunwoody.
Spanish, modern, mediterranean, and block styles are seen.
Newer houses are on tall stilts, older ones are usually single~story.
But the yards are minimal, no grassy lawns with deep green colors.
Some houses even have gravel for lawns!
The neat thing about running here is the canals and the boats!
Behind houses you can catch a glimpse of the canals and the boat for that house.
Most owners prefer power boats while only a few ave sailboats.
Looking at the depth of the water hereabouts, you'll see why.
Key West is a boaters paradise but the water is too shallow for good sailing!
But , you'll see sailboards and wave runners if you look close.
While the canals are wonderful just to look at,
they serve a better purpose for the runner!
After a hot run, the most refreshing thing to do is just jump into the canal!
While the water is warm, its nowhere as hot as a sweating runner!
So, jump in and relax!
At 6:30 a.m.,
I head outside my hotel, the Radisson Inn,
modeled like a clipper ship,
with beautiful woodwork and brass rails.
I traverse the cool rainforest lobby,
and spot fake birds and even a lazy crocodile.
Outside, its moist and sticky.
I warm up alone on the brick-tiled walkways,
noting only slight traffic.
I begin running and turn towards The Pier,
a magnificent shopping center in maritime trim.
Then, I make a sharp right, following the path
by the docks and the river.
The scenery here is fantastic for the runner!
There are glistening boats with exotic names --
Ocean Spirit -- Explorer II -- Reef Queen.
A giant freighter, with brown rusting sides,
edges slowly down the channel of the river.
The freighter's pedigree is odd,
registered to the Dominican Republic,
but with Chinese markings.
Why has it come to Cairns?
Each pier has its own eclectic mixture of boats.
Huge catamarans, fishing trawlers, and sailboats.
But these sailboats are not like ours.
They are large, substantially built, to withstand
the punishment of the sea.
Continuing my run back of the Hilton,
I notice the white balconies, dripping green foliage.
I reach the Cairns Yacht Club, where mastless
sleek sailboats are perched on one pier, awaiting launch.
Several small Lasers are beached,
perhaps awaiting their owners, anxious
to put to sea.
I've now reached the farthest point along the pier,
and turn back, retracing my steps
to reach the Esplanade.
Seaside of the Esplanade is the bog,
a thick brown ooze reaching hundreds
of yards into the sea.
There are no inviting beaches here!
Or beachcombers either!
Mangroves only a few feet high
are widely spaced in the bog.
Either they grow slowly,
or they are harvested, I can't decide
I spot large flocks of birds feeding
on this gigantic aquatic breeding ground.
with untold numbers of insect life.
Running along the Esplanade, I pass
huge banyan trees with their vine-like trunks.
Their canopies are like giant umbrellas
overshadowing the crowds.
Unfortunate illclothed denizens
doze on the park benches.
Their dogs keep watch over them
So far, I've seen no other runners.
Now, I wonder if the hot climate is
prevents this sport. Finally, I spot
another runner and wave heartily.
Even at this early hour,
the heat and humidity are awful,
and after a long run,
I am ready to return.
On the way back to the hotel,
I savor the aroma of the sea
and enjoy the ocean view.
But I am ready for air conditioning,
a hot shower, and a hearty breakfast!
S Jay Smith, December , 1993
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