The Melrose Running Club has a Sunday Long Run program for spring and fall marathon runners. In 2017 my marathon was in December and well after the Sunday Long Run program ended.
Without an organized program I had to come up with my own runs and one was the Medford Long Run.
Medford Long Run Destination Unknown
I’ve lived in Medford for about 15 years and know the area fairly well.
I also know most of the Melrose long run routes by heart. The challenge for me is stringing the two together. Starting from a different place and running to a familiar space can be disorienting.
I like to visualize my run before I go out. But when I change things up I can find it difficult to string things together. If I imagine one intersection incorrectly I could have an extra long run!
Where was I and how did I get there?
How many times have you been driving and suddenly realize you’ve arrived but don’t recall the journey?
While running it’s easy to focus on your shoes and not notice the surroundings. This is especially true on a long, difficult run. And just like driving, you can finish a run and not recall the turns. Some of this is from the shoe thing and some is from runner’s amnesia. Exhaustion and pain tend to make the mind focus inwardly and blur the world.
Sometimes a landmark gets torn down or painted. Its amazing how differently a street can look from the opposite direction. It’s amazing how different a street looks from your car as apposed to running.
I tend to notice these things more when I’m running, but only if I’m tuned in. It can be disorienting to suddenly realize that some building is gone but not be sure what had been there.
Starting from a different place, I felt disoriented trying to visualize the entire route. I was not entirely sure where I was going!
I was running into the unknown.
Starting the Medford Long Run
I left from my front door step, ran past the Crystal Campbell Memorial on Riverside Ave and through Medford Square.
From the Square I ran up High Street past the library and St. Joseph’s. At the rotary I stayed left and continued to West Medford down High Street.
In West Medford I crossed the Commuter Train tracks and passed St. Raphael’s.
A lot of West Medford seems out of the 1950’s. The square is full of small shops, there is a train stop and the houses are large early 1900’s style and look to be mostly single family still.
So far so good, I knew exactly where I was.
At the rotary below the Lower Mystic Lake I took a right onto the Mystic Valley Parkway. As I approached the turn I saw several cyclist turn up the Parkway. This is a great road for cyclists and runners. On the lake side of the road there is a gravel path which isn’t too dangerous to run on.
Just before the turn my watch chimed 3 miles. My average pace was 8:50. I told my self that I would get in at least a 6 mile run now. It was beginning to feel like a run but my pace was still good.
As I ran up the Mystic Valley Parkway I met other runners and several walkers. It was nice to see so much activity in my home town. I even saw an un-manned water stop for The Tufts Marathon Team.
As I got to the end of the Parkway I crossed the street near the Wedgemere commuter rail station and took a right onto Bacon Street.
I was still on my mental map!
Into the Wilderness
I’ve run this area many times and knew where I was. But I was having difficulty visualizing the next turn. I knew how to get home from here, but I wanted to get in more miles before heading home.
At the next rotary I recognized Symmes Corner and knew that I wanted to turn left onto Main Street. However, I still could not visualize my next turn. I took it on faith that I would know which way to go when I got there.
When Main Street split into Main and Washington Street, I went down Washington. I saw a sign for Rt. 38 and knew that went to Medford. It felt like dead reckoning.
At mile 7 I was in the Winchester Highlands. I’ve been here many times and recalled that I never recall the street to turn right onto. Each corner looks the same to me: houses and maybe a business of some kind. As generic as a Florida intersection.
Instead of turning right onto Forrest Street I continued into the Montvale section of Woburn. This is the southern edge of Woburn but the farthest distance from my house. I did not want to get turned around here! While running down this road I saw a sign for Tyngsboro! That caught my attention. Tyngsboro is on the New Hampshire border.
Around mile 7 I took my single gel. At the corner of Washington Street and Montvale Ave I found a Wendy’s and put my empty gel packet into a trash can.
While wandering across the parking lot like a zombie I took out my phone and checked my map. I wasn’t too far off of the beaten path, but I had missed that turn onto Forrest Street. It was time to find the most direct way home. I noticed that my water was well over half gone, but it never occurred to me to go into Wendy’s and get a drink. Too focused on that map!
Medford Long Run Home
All I had to do was turn right onto Montvale Avenue and head for the Stone Zoo. Going down Montvale I had to cross the ramps for Rt. 93, both north and south bound. Fortunately traffic wasn’t too bad and I never feared for my life!
After I ran that gauntlet I decided to check my map again. I recalled seeing a street that cut off some distance, but didn’t recall the name. Fortunately I was on the right corner and turned down Maple Street.
Maple started out okay and then turned into a bitch of a hill. I went up 100 feet in less than half a mile. I wasn’t even sure where I was going and this hill was kicking my ass! What a waste if I got it wrong!
Fortunately Maple ended at Main Street in Stoneham which is also Rt. 28 which goes to Medford. I was feeling a little better.
When I got to the corner I recognized the area and knew to turn right and head south. I didn’t really recognize anything running down Main Street. Then I got to the four-way intersection of Main Street, North Border Road, South Street and Fellsway West.
I saw the Friendly’s on the corner and the Fellsway West right in front of me. I knew where to go.
The Fellsway West has several long slow hills that just burn you up. They’re not steep, they just go on for ever. I knew where I was but had to figure out how to get home.
Normally we take a left at Elm Street off of the Fellsway and hit the last water stop before heading back to Melrose.
I did not want to go to Melrose this time!
As I passed my usual turn I entered very familiar territory. I was now in the Fulton Heights section of Medford and running past St. Francis. This was our parish when my kids were in elementary school.
The Fellsway West comes around the back side of Spot Pond and passes in front of St. Francis. Shortly after passing Fulton Street, mile 13 chimed in at 9:01! Not bad for being this deep into a greater Medford long run.
I wasn’t sure how much further I had to go distance wise, but I knew exactly where I was going. As I made my way down Spring Street mile 14 approached. I was spent and decided to walk after mile 14.
I never planned to run this far in the first place! Just before the turn onto my street mile 14 chimed in at 9:12. Still very good.
I walked the last quarter mile and lengthened my stride to stretch my muscles a little bit. I felt a little funny walking past the neighbors homes in my running kit and, well walking! My shirt was so thoroughly sweat through that the entire shirt was now several shades darker. The uniformity of color probably looked like I hadn’t even broken a sweat.
This was a great run for my training for The Honolulu Marathon and my memory turned out to be much better than I thought.
Run Well my Friends!