As announced a week ago, I already signed up for the SHAPE’s women half marathon in Manhattan. It will take place in four weeks, and I do not feel ready. Everyday when I wake up there is one less day to go, and more miles to run. In What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, Haruki Murakami documented that prior to his New York Marathon, he ran consistently up to 200 miles a month for three months before the event. Sure, my race is half of the distance that Murakami signed up for. I still think that I need to train for it. As of now, I feel that I need to have a huge excel sheet (I grew up with an accountant. We think with excel sheets) where I document where I run, and when I run prior to the marathon in April.
Last week, New York was icy cold. Hence I had a reason to not go out for a run on a daily basis. Instead, I stayed at home, wrote reflections on my notebooks, and composed blog post after blog post. Then I had an opportunity to go to Atlanta for a few days to stay away from the cold, and also visit friends. It was such a change!
Atlanta was so ready for the spring. The moment I landed, I noticed that trees already started blossoming. Japanese magnolia flowers were dotting neighborhoods with their purple and pinkish flowers. What I also recognized this time was that Atlanta was so green. There were so many more trees, and parks, and lawns than in New York. I also miss my favorite southern magnolia trees.
One afternoon, after having some light lunch at a friend’s house, I decided to go for a run lest I won’t be able to run once I get back to New York. My favorite place to run is always parks. So I decided to head to Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta to run. I thought that it would be like Central Park where many urbanites would run in the afternoon especially on a Friday. However, I was wrong. What I found was that there were not that many people who were training with me. I found a few people walking their dogs, a few teenagers taking pictures of the beautiful parks, and some going on a walk. “What is going on here?,” I asked myself. How could the park be so quiet?
I thought that it was the nature of Piedmont Park was quietude. My guess was that Atlantans were not much into their public parks like New Yorkers. So I brought up this observation to a couple friends the following day. To my surprise the answer was that most runners in Atlanta now prefer to run on the Beltline. It is a unique redevelopment project in Atlanta which is based on railroad corridors that formerly encircled Atlanta.
It is not yet completed, but a lot of it has been put to use since I was in college. Essentially, it is a pedestrian and cycle only road that encircles the city of Atlanta. According to the map above, it cuts through Piedmont Park. When I was running at Piedmont, I saw many people running on the Beltline. My Atlanta friends were very happy, and proud of this accomplishment of the city. They thought that it was one of the most ingenious redevelopment projects that Atlanta, specifically a student from Georgia Tech, came up with. When completed, it will connect 45 intown neighborhoods via a 22-mile loop of multi-use trails, modern streetcar, and parks. Its shape, its ideas, and its sociability, and potential to connect urban neighborhoods in the era of disconnection give us hope. The Beltline seems to symbolize connectivity, community, and sustainable development. If I could, I would definitely conduct research about this particular redevelopment project. I wonder how it has impacted different communities. This project is still in progress for sure. Yet this just offers an amazing opportunity for people to explore a large-scale redevelopment project on community development, and social cohesion. I wonder what it really does. Why don’t people write about it? Why urban sociologists do not grasp this chance to examine something that is so grass-roots like this project? I think I would definitely want to write about it.
I wonder whether Atlanta will soon organize a marathon on the complete Beltline around the city. I would love to sign up for this run. As of now, I need to tally up my miles for the run in Central Park that I will have in the next few weeks.