If you've been reading here long, you've probably seen me write about my running options in Jacksonville, NC. We make the 1000 mile journey here several times a year because my wife's family is here. The problem is, Jacksonville's not a runner friendly town. Traffic is crazy and there aren't bike lanes or sidewalks in most places. Oh, I'm sure you can find a nice neighborhood or two where you can run up and down the streets safely. But those neighborhoods aren't really suitable to marathon training and the miles we run to get ready for the next race.
There is a nice paved trail, ~6.5 miles long for cyclists, runners and walkers. I ran on that for two or three years before it became so boring I looked for other options.
Jacksonville is the home of Camp Lejeune, NC, where the 2nd Marine Division is based. I was stationed there from '91 to '94 and ran a lot on base back then. The base has lots of great places to run, on the streets and trails all over. But since 9/11, it's practically impossible to get through the gate for folks who don't belong there.
But south of town, on the southern part of Camp Lejeune, is a huge training area for the Marines. No barracks, no units stationed there, nothing but trails, dirt and gravel roads, landing zones, and ranges. Even when the Marines are training, there is usually a large percentage of this area without human activity. For the past year, every time we've come to town, I've almost felt like I was in Heaven running through this web of roads and trails.
There are no fences, no locked gates, no impenetrable barricades or obstacles to overcome to enter the expanse of this perfect runner's habitat. So I thought, what's the harm in training on all this prime running terrain? But today I learned that trespassing on Federal property (according to the law that's what I was doing) is punishable by a $500 fine and 6 months in the Federal pen. Not what I'd call a good tradeoff for a nice place to run.
But the base wildlife officer was nice about it when he picked me up. Instead of slapping on the handcuffs and hauling me to the pokey, he carried me back to my vehicle and gave me a warning. The worst part is the ride interrupted what was shaping up to be a fine 16 mile run.
When I left the vehicle, my plan was to do 15 miles. I figured I'd run out 4 and back to the vehicle to make a first leg of 8 miles. Then I'd be able to get water and fuel and head out for a second phase of 7 miles to finish. But once I got started, I didn't want to stop. And, I realized that 16 miles would put me at my normal 40 mile goal for the week.
So I decided to keep going and make it 8 miles out and 8 miles back. The wind was blowing HARD! According to my Garmin it was 10 mph when I started, but it felt more like 20. With the 300 temperature, I don't even want to know what the wind chill was. Even though conditions were tough, I had my friends back in Arkansas on my mind, and I was really glad to be in NC. Back home temps were in the lower teens this morning, so it was warm here compared to that.
On the way out, I prayed for everyone I could think to pray for. I was making really good time. I hoped to do the 16 at a 4:30 marathon pace, which would have been 10:18 per mile. Though the first mile was a little slow, I was blessed to bring the average down under 10 minutes after I loosened up. I was 11.9 miles in when the wildlife officer stopped me, only 4.1 miles to finish.
But that was the end of my running on the base. He was really nice about it. I climbed into his truck and we talked about our Marine Corps experiences on the ride back. Once back to the car, he took down a little more information, phone numbers, height, weight, and some stuff I can't remember, then we said our goodbyes.
I had no intention of quitting before I finished the 16 though, so I made the drive back to my old starting point on that long, flat, boring paved trail for the last 4.1. The 20 minute drive to get there left me a little stiff by the time I hit the trail. So my pace was a little slower for the final leg to today's miles. I finished the 4.1 miles at an average pace of 10:08 per mile.
That still left me under a 10 minute pace (just barely) for the entire 16 miles. I'm happy with the time, just disappointed I can't go back and run on that heavenly terrain when I come back.
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." ~ Hebrews 12:11
But God has a reason for everything He does. There must be some reason I can't return to that I was so fond of. We'll be back here before too long, and if it's God's will, I'll still be running. Back on the paved trail if no other option presents itself, but somewhere I'll be running. Only time will tell what God has in store, and I may never know exactly why this great place to run is now off limits to me. But I'm at peace. No harm done, and it was good while it lasted.
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