Sunday, December 6, 2009

Incredible memories and running nostalgia evoked by music.

I just finally setup my old desktop computer for the first time since leaving Baltimore since my laptop is temporarily unusable. I had never ripped the majority of my music collection to my laptop due to sheer laziness and just copied like the top 40 or 50 albums I was listening to at the time when I put the most recent hard-drive in it. I was browsing through my music collection on here and found a tremendous amount of old stuff that I used to listen to while running in Baltimore that I haven't heard in months or even years and I am truly shocked by what this is evoking in me.

Discovering some of this music is just awesome to me and it brings back some of the happiest memories of my running career, if not my life. It sounds crazy, but some of the times when I've been most at peace with the universe and just content in general have come from runs through the "Dreaded" Druid Hills, Robert E Lee Park, or Loch Raven Reservoir.

Jason Becker's entire "Perspective" album, which he wrote from a wheel chair completely paralyzed with ALS, a particularly special album to me even apart from any running connections, brings back vivid imagery from long runs through Loch Raven Reservoir, a beautiful place that I wish I had spent more time at.

Dream Theater's "Honor Thy Father", from their prog metal masterpiece "Train of Thought", reminds me of the struggle of pushing my way through the Gilman Trail on 5k-race-pace pickups (of course after hammering the Loyola hill on North Charles and looping around Gilman High School). That album was definitely not one to ever leave my immediate collection, but it's interesting that after listening to some of my other older music from my collection and I start thinking about old runs through Baltimore, memories come back with this as well. One specific section reminds me of one specific part of one specific run on one specific part of the trail, late at night in a state of combined agony and bliss despite being with nothing but my shoes, shorts, headlamp, and music.

Symbyosis' "Famine" from "On the Wings of Pheonix", one of my technical metal guilty pleasures, brings back memories of dodging the cracks in the sidewalks along North Charles just after crossing West University while prepping for a "big" climbs up the hill in front of that ritzy private middle school just up the road and then in front of Loyola while doing a very hard 7 mile tempo run that I was especially fond of.

Between the Buried and Me's entire "Colors" album, an undefineably odd masterpiece, reminds me of the loop around Fort McHenry and the sheer terror of crossing the 10 mile mark in the 2007 Baltimore Marathon way too fast in somewhere around 65 minutes and wondering how I was possibly going to hold on for another 16.2 miles (my first ever Boston Qualifier in 3:04, so I guess I managed to survive at least somewhat).

Not all of the music connects to good times though. I remember listening to Rachmaninoff's irreconcilably despondent 2nd Symphony, 3rd Movement (at least to me) while crushing my body through the poorly cleared, thorny, and rocky back half of Robert E Lee park during a very long trail-hopping run, tears absolutely exploding from my eyes during one of the few times in recent life that I truly let myself absolutely break down as nothing in my life seemed to be going as I had anticipated.

On a lighter note, Origin's absurdly heavy "Informis Infinitas Inhumanitas" super-death-metal album reminds me of the one time I was crazy enough to bring music this fast (on someone else's recommendation) to an 8-10 mile run with 10x60 second extremely-high-effort hill repeats right in the middle on the nasty double-switch-back hill in Druid Hill Park (if you've ever run the road loop circling the zoo starting on the side by the cemetery mini-car thing, whatever it is, you know EXACTLY what hill I'm talking about).

Veni Domine's highly epic prog rock "Last Letter from Earth" from their album "Spiritual Wasteland" reminds me of doing an easy long run along Lake Avenue and around the outside of Robert E Lee Park, up into Towson along Jappa Road, and back on the incredibly sketchy York Road, which had me no longer running "easy" by any means and looking over my shoulder every 30 seconds or so.

One of my most cherished runs in my entire time in Baltimore was a crazy 40 mile trainer I did from North Baltimore to Washington DC, almost entirely along route one. I contemplated this run for the longest time before I got the balls up to do it once, but that one time was enough to build some incredible memories. The mindset in 6 1/2 hours of training is not whatsoever similar to the mindset in long 6+ hour races and I completely phased out of reality and forgot that I was even running for literally 30 minutes at one point. However, I could never forget listening to Megadeth's highly satiric "United Abominations" title track while descending a long gradual downhill on Route 1 shortly after buying Hawaiian Punch, water, and a Snickers bar at convenience store, convincing the store clerk that my Hammer Nutrition HEED (a pure white powder in a ziplock bag that was to be mixed with the water) was cocaine.

Last and perhaps most most vivid are the memories from Shadow Gallery's beautiful prog rock concept albums "Tyranny" and "Room V", which follow each other in the same story line, and which I nearly always listened to in succession. Hearing either of these reminds me of an eerie yet serene run through Robert E Lee Park shortly before the setting of the sun, looking out over the lake to see a beautiful yet incredibly unnerving mist settling. I felt completely effortless and nearly out of body, yet I was in a terrified enough mindset (after all, a stripper had very recently been murdered in this park) to be running with one earbud out and nearly freaking out to the drone of a lightrail passing into the decaying horizon a mile or 2 away.

What does running mean to me? I love to race and respectably fast times over distances previously unfathomable to me can be a reward for the hard work I put in, but nothing compares with the memories I've built up during that work; I wouldn't trade those for anything. It's really bizarre that the simple act of using a computer that I don't normally use can evoke such a palette of emotion and due to the highly reflective mood I've been in for the past few days, I'm glad that I plugged it in today and spent much of the evening just sitting back and remembering the good times I had while running in Baltimore.

A view I frequently saw at Loch Raven Reservoir.

The now structurally unstable and literally crumbling entrance to Robert E Lee Park that I used several times a week for years.

Just about to start up the climb past Loyola College on North Charles Street.

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