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On Running: Long Gradual Inclines

On Running
Long Gradual Inclines

I wasn't at the Bachman Valley Half Marathon this year. I had a commitment that led me elsewhere.
Every rise and fall of the course is familiar to me. The long gradual inclines have challenged my tempo more times than I can say, but there's one particular stretch that I love.
When it's reached, miles of uphill are behind and, for a brief time, the road is easy. Tall trees provide a shelter, and the surrounding woods have always given me a feeling of peace.
Having run there so many times before, I know what race morning was like. I can even see the excited runners warming up in the cool September morning, knowing that it wouldn't be cool for long once the race was underway.
I can see the leaders breezing through the early miles like fluid motion. Relaxed, they took some time to see how they were feeling before beginning to press into race mode. Behind them, the long strand of runners were chasing, some focused, others engaged in conversation. All were eventually challenged by the course.
At the finish line, there was an air of anticipation. The winner arrived and people wondered how he made it look so easy. Time passed and a stream of runners finished with mix of exhaustion and exhilaration.
Afterwards, the roads were quiet again, the silence broken only by the occasional passing car, and I know many runners left already looking forward to returning next September.
I know something else as well. I know that something was missing, almost like a continuum had ended because Dave Herlocker wasn't there.
Dave was the heart that pumped life through this running community, and nowhere was his presence more appreciated than at the Bachman Valley Half Marathon. His friends understood how much he loved the race and, after his death last spring, decided to make it a memorial to Dave by forever attaching his name to it.
While that was a fitting thing to do, something more of Dave was present that morning. As each runner arrived, prepared, ran and celebrated, so too did the spirit of the man who so many of us still miss.
There's no reason to grieve anymore. The long, hard hills are well behind Dave and he's found a place of shelter and a feeling of peace. Yet, something keeps pulling me back to his memory, almost like there's one last lesson he's trying to teach me, and I think my ponderings may have uncovered it.
In life, a connection is formed between ourselves and the places where we dwell. I feel such a connection to the roads around Bachman Valley, so much so that I know what happened on race day without even having been there. The tranquility of the surroundings and the challenge of the hills have made an imprint on my spirit, and I think my effort has left an imprint on the place as well.
We all need to understand that something of ourselves is left behind in the people and the places we touch. Knowing that, perhaps we should decide now, before it's too late, just what that something will be.

Dave Griffin writes a bi-weekly running column and offers coaching to high school and adult runners of all levels. Contact Dave at

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