When we moved here nearly three years ago, I chose the neighborhood we live in largely because of a nearby cinder track. A small private school in the neighborhood had a soccer field ringed with a dirt oval. It was a little lumpy in spots, but it was the closest thing I could find to a dirt trail. There is an innocence in a cinder track that harkens back to the old days. I loved that track.
I logged about a million miles on it, give or take a few meters. It was always alive with people in the evenings and on weekends. Not the Serious Runners that had populated the track back in Scottsdale, but just normal, slightly overweight people walking and jogging for fitness. It was a good place to run.
Families, kids on Big Wheels and in wagons. Teens running and talking on their phones. Aspiring marathoners, perspiring 5Kers. Soccer games, planned and impromptu. It was a wonderful mixing pot of a community.
Because it was cinder, I would wear a little path in the outside lane that pleased me because it was a sign of the effort I had put in. When the rain came, I would run in the mud and then start all over again.
Once or twice a year, the coach would come out and put down lane markers with chalk. For a couple of weeks or until the first rain, I would run in my lane, staging little battles with my Imaginary Cassidy. He always beat me. Bastard.
The weirdest run I had there was one evening near Halloween when a train was hauling kids around on the track. That’s the only time in my years of running I can recall dodging a train on a track. But I’m getting old and I forget stuff.
It’s a private school and I know there was no reason for them to share it. But still, for years, whenever I heard the name of the school, I got the warm fuzzies. That was my track. Our track.
In October they began construction to put in a new track surface. Now it’s a shiny new state-of-the-art facility, whatever state-of-the-art is. They have top-notch long jump pits, pole vault whatchamacallits and shot put and discus areas. They also have new batting cages over in the corner.
And a 6-foot fence around it with two padlocked gates.
I had hoped this might just be as a protection while the final stages of construction went on. But when I went today in hopes of finding it open, I ran into the baseball coach. He confirmed my fear: It’s going to be permanently locked up. No public access.
So that’s it. I live next to a track I can never use again, unless I enroll in Catholic school. And I look funny in a plaid skirt. Trust me.
It’s a private school and I know there is no reason for them to share it. But still, for years, whenever I hear the name of the school, I will get the opposite of the warm fuzzies. That was my track. Our track.
Now it’s just theirs.