At the end of eighth grade, I decided that I wanted to continue my budding cheerleading career and try out for the high school team. I found the list of requirements for tryouts and mentally checked off all of the items I could do on the list: Learn and perform a dance, a long halftime cheer, two to three short sideline cheers, and—wait, does that say run for 20 minutes around the track? I froze.
Ever since my traumatic experience in 7th grade coming in last place during the mile-run around St. Bernard’s parking lot, running was synonymous with sarcastic cheers from my classmates and a sweaty white polo shirt (word to the wise: Catholic school uniforms are not effective for athletic contests). Envisioning my place under the Friday Night Lights, I put my woes aside and promised myself that by the end of the summer I would be able to run for 20 minutes. My fear of running turned into a newfound love for my sneakers by the end of the summer. Though I wasn’t running 7-minute miles like my cross-country running friends, I found that my jogs were quickly becoming a key part of my weekly routine.
The reason for my change of heart? My route, the streets of Virginia Manor, which are conveniently only a heart-thumping run up my street away. It’s no wonder that the tree-lined, quiet streets of Virginia Manor are a haven for walkers, runners, bikers, and even the occasional ambitious skateboarder. The loops are a geographical dream: the flat “small loop” is approximately one mile, and a “big loop” down Valleyview and up Osage is approximately 1.6 miles, or about half the distance of a 5K. There’s plenty of eye-candy, too. Gorgeous old stone houses with flower-lined yards mixed with a constant stream of fluffy dogs on walks with their owners makes for an ideal backdrop on an otherwise grueling run in the heat of summer.
As nice as running through the Manor is, I would not love running as much as I do today if it were not for my running partner/life coach/#fitspiration: my dad. Our weekly runs through the Manor and then up the grueling hill of Parker (with iced coffees from Coffee Tree awaiting us on the other side, of course) are my favorite time of the week. Though I may get frustrated at him occasionally as we’re climbing up our last hill or heading into the home stretch of a race, he always calms my exasperated whining and pushes me to finish my run as strong as I started it. I’ve found that his advice on our runs endures long after I kick off my shoes.
Before I left Mt. Lebanon this summer to head back to school in New York City, I sneaked in a few more runs around the neighborhood with my dad. I’ll miss the comfort and familiarity of the Manor, but Central Park and Riverside Park aren’t shabby replacements. Though the scenery may change, and my soundtrack evolves, one thing remains constant: my love for lacing up my sneakers and immersing myself in the world around on a simple run.
Danielle was an intern this summer at mtl-Mt. Lebanon Magazine.