A Final Farewell

One last run on a favorite route before moving on

By Tara Austen Weaver

The house is silent as I wander through dark rooms. My boxes are packed and sealed, ready to be moved first thing in the morning. A thousand miles away an empty house sits waiting for my arrival, but I am not ready to leave yet. There is one last thing I must do before I go.

My running clothes and shoes sit on top of an overnight bag, the last thing to be packed. In a bedroom filled with crates and brown cardboard I change quickly, slipping my house key onto the laces of my running shoes and tying it in place. I realize this is the last run with this particular key; I wonder how many times, on how many runs, it has accompanied me.

The streets are quiet as I slip out my front door and head south. Though it is dark between the street lamps, I don’t need the light. After three years I know this run instinctively—what patch of sidewalk has uneven cracks; which neighbors leave their garden hose looped across my path; where the rainwater tends to puddle.

I try to search my memory for the first time I took this route, but there’s nothing there. I can’t remember a time before this run. As I think, a series of images come flooding out, a catalogue of the past three years.

I remember joining the neighborhood kids as they sprinted through sprinklers on hot summer afternoons; listening to cheers of the little league fans as I ran by the park; racing through summer sunsets of dazzling orange and red.

I remember leaping over piles of brilliantly colored autumn leaves, carefully raked and waiting to be hauled away; dodging the big, black walnuts that fall from the ancient tree on the corner every autumn; night runs under a full, orange, harvest moon.

I remember winter runs through snowy scenery, my breath freezing before me; bundled up carolers wishing me well as I sprinted by them on icy streets; the magic of starlight on fleshly falling flakes. Though the seasons changed and the years moved forward, my favorite run remained a constant.

Warming up now I hit my stride and coast through the neighborhood, past house and cottage, car and driveway. I do not know all the people who live here. We wave to each other when I run by, but I do not know their names. Instead I know when they mow their lawn, rake their leaves and prune their trees. I know what month each garden is at the height of bloom. There are gardens here I will miss: the cheerful daffodils on the corner, the roses mid block.

There will be new gardens where I am going, new gardens and new runs. As I think about it I become excited for the discoveries that lie ahead, new territory to explore. I wonder how long it will take me to find my favorite run. Will it be hilly or flat? Will it have a park or a river?

There is a river here and as the road curves around I reach it, water gurgling softly in the darkness. This is the start of my distance training route—a slow uphill along the river to open fields beyond our town, wooded mountains looming in the distance.

This is where I turn back tonight. I am not training for anything, my races here have all been run. I ease into a loping stride as I let the downhill work for me. There will be new races where I am going, and new challenges as well. I relax as I glide past houses, gardens and park—the scenery of my last three years. I try to take everything in, to affix this place in my mind.

The porch light burns warmly as I round the corner and make for home. I bound up my stairs for the last time. Untying my house key from my shoelace, I am smiling. This has been a good place, a good time in my life. I unlock the door and think about that empty house waiting for me, a thousand miles away. My farewell now complete, I am ready for the next good thing.