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You Like to Run in Cemeteries?

by Rachel Keller

I glanced at my watch--a little after seven. It hadn't taken me too long to run the two miles to the back entrance of my favorite place to run. (Although the front entrance is closer, I prefer entering the picturesque back entrance. During the warmer months, a crystal clear water fountain beckons me to enter.) Sometimes I take a longer round-about route to the park, but today I wanted to spend more time running in the park.

On this particular autumn morning, I arrived in time to watch the glowing reddish orange sun creep over the horizon. I had observed the sky's hue brightening from a pale pink to a brighter, deeper, and more vibrant orange, and then fade again as the glowing sun emerged. I watched the magnificent display unfold: the sun's warm rays reflecting off the brightly colored autumn leaves in a breath-taking view.

Oh the pleasure of these early morning runs in the cool, crisp days of Autumn--a deeply satisfying experience! The hot humid days of summer are over, and the brilliant autumn foliage deepens and grows more beautiful each day. I wished for a camcorder to capture this beautiful scene, but all I had with me was the pepper spray I always carried. I focused the only camera I had--my mind--on the wonderful array of beauty unfolding before me.

Since resuming a regular running routine, I have discovered the fun of running through cemeteries. I have run in four different ones, but this burial park is my favorite place to run. It is well maintained and mourners leave flowers and other special mementos by the gravesides. In Autumn, the cemetery looked like a harvest festival with its pumpkins and other fall decorations. Christmas is very festive with wreathes and various holiday decorations. (One family placed a decorated Christmas tree by their loved one's grave site.)

I enjoy the park so much that I sometimes take a brief detour through it when returning from my longer runs. The park's perimeter is over a mile. Its many paved roads and trails make it easy to spend an hour running. I can choose to run the relatively flat areas or challenge myself with an arduous hill-training workout on the very steep hills in the front section. My reward for conquering the hills is a spectacular view of the valley below.

Why do I enjoy cemeteries? No annoying dogs chase me. No traffic or dangerous streets to combat. No suspicious looking strangers worry me, and nobody stares at me or even cares that I'm running. Occasionally, I see a lone mourner or two, and once, I rounded a corner to see five beautiful deer grazing on the hillside. (I've seen the tails of deer on other early morning runs in the park.)

If I need a break while running, I slow down and observe the markers. My first few runs through the cemetery, I didn't get much running done because the markers fascinated me. I still want to stop and read them. Oh, the stories contained therein! I often wonder about the countless numbers whose bodies lie buried beneath the damp dark soil. My mind spins stories as I pass the markers. How many wonderful stories lie buried here waiting to be unearthed? Sadly, most will never be revealed.

As I see a small marker, my soul aches for that young child who so prematurely left this earth and for the anguish of the loved ones left behind. My heart beats proud when I see those who valiantly fought for the freedoms we enjoy, especially those killed in combat. (In my runs, I have seen gravesides of men who fought in all the wars from the American Revolutionary War in the eighteenth century to the Persian Gulf conflict in the twentieth century.)

I don't run in the park everyday, for I do like variety. But those mornings I head to the cemeteries, the miles quickly pass. As I leave, I always glance back. The beautiful hillside beckons me to return. "I'll be back again!" I whisper as I run the final miles to home.

'Rachel Keller - All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission

About the author: The mother of three young sons, Rachel Keller enjoys running, cycling, aerobics, strength training, and flexibility exercises. She races regularly, placing in her age group in nearly all her races. She has both a Bachelor of Science and a Master's degree in education and has been published numerous times. For more of Rachel's work, please visit her sites Rachel's Writings and Kozy Kitchen Korner.

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