I have often said, to just about anyone who would listen, that “the best way to get to know a place is to run it.”
I said this, believing it to be true. I espoused this. I tried to live this, and thought I was doing so. When I travel to a new city, I run it, sure in the knowledge that I will thereby be getting to know the place better than I would any other way.
I have lived in my current neighborhood for more than four years, running locally the whole time. I felt confident saying that, based on my own maxim, I knew this neighborhood.
But I have a confession to make: I was completely full of it.
I know this now because I recently took up a challenge, posed by Rickey Gates, to run every single street in my neighborhood.
After running more than 40 miles of streets and sidewalks, all within a mile and a half of my apartment, I can tell you that I did not know this neighborhood anywhere near as well as I had thought. Before this challenge, I had probably run less than 25% of these streets in four years. And these are the streets that, according to my own saying, I should know better than anybody.
In the process of running every single street I found, among other things, a house that looks like it was transported straight from an English village, a row of mansions overlooking a homeless encampment, more Little Free Libraries than I could have imagined, and a Calvin and Hobbes mural painted on a garage door. I saw eagles, red-tailed hawks, and a fox. I found new allies, through, and dead-ends mere blocks from my front door. And I ran by more than a dozen churches.
So does my theory that the best way to get to know a place is to run it hold true?