There are a lot of things I liked about our time in SLO (San Luis Obispo). The weather. The people. The beach. The complete lack of traffic. SLO is one of those cities that when your GPS says 20 miles, it’ll take you 20 minutes. Doesn’t matter time of day or time of year. 1 mile= 1 minute. I cannot express fully how much I loved this. About the only time I ever hit traffic, which was about twice per year, was either for a fire on the side of the road or wildlife running across the highway.
There’s a reason SLO is considered the happiest city in America. A quaint college town or about 40,000, nestled 10 minutes inland from the beautiful California coastline. With beach towns like Pismo and Avila beach 5 minutes away, and 30 minutes south of the Paso Robles wine country, you’ve really got it all here. If circumstances were different, I don’t know if my wife and I would have ever left. But being closer to family and friends while trying to start a family of our own was just too great an opportunity to pass up.
I go many days of the week finding myself daydreaming of being back there. Meditating and visualizing myself back on the rocks of Avila Beach, where my wife and I had our first look. And where I would go to be alone, with myself and my thoughts. Back to the trails along the Pismo coastline, where I had a 360 panorama view of the entire valley.
At times I also find myself missing our run club, The Templeton Run Club, who welcomed us with open arms a few weeks into moving there. Templeton sits about 30 minutes north of SLO, and it also just so happened to be where the clinic I was working at was located. I still remember that first run I had with them. It was Fourth of July week, and it was a Tuesday morning. The run scheduled for that day was a Tempo Tuesday, and it began at 6 am. Now, at this moment, I was not aware that this run would be a precursor to what all of our tempo runs would be. And I can thank Tony for that. Tony, if you ever read this, you know.
The group shot out of a cannon at 6:05 am, like they were running from a predator, or life itself. Now I would consider myself a pretty decent runner, but this pace was on a different level. I should say, this club is for EVERYONE. Meaning there are people running at all different paces, which is one of the qualities I loved so much about this club. Not all running clubs are created equal, and this club was truly one for the people… ALL people. But back to the gazelles. Like I was saying, this pace was CRAZY. I know this was a tempo run, but typically tempo runs vary through out. The tempo this morning was just GO! Now I know what you may be thinking. I didn’t have to run like a bat out of hell. And you’d be correct. But when it comes to running, I can get a bit competitive. And on this particular morning, and with it being my first introduction to the club, I wanted to prove myself.
I know I know I know. Prove myself? What did I need to prove? This was a recreational running club awarding no prizes or first places. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to still show that I could run. And run fast for that matter. So after 6 miles, we ended where we had begun. I took a peak at my watch and couldn’t believe the time. But oh did my body sure feel it. I don’t remember the exact time, but it was in the low 7’s per mile. Which is damn fast for me. I was sure I was dead 🙂 But at that moment, I knew my wife and I had a home. At least for the time being. We had a group of people who shared a similar interest, and welcomed a couple of strangers into their domain with open arms. We went on, over the next 2 years, to share many more runs with these wonderful people. From hamster wheel track workouts, to 6 am and 6 pm week day runs, and long Saturday morning runs followed by the Templeton farmer’s market. We even scheduled a handful of beach and trail runs, which were always my favorites. I will never forget the park to pier run, which covered 22 miles of beautiful trails, mountain peaks, and coastal road. I had no intention of running at all that morning, and was planning on just being support. But something in me said I couldn’t pass up running with everyone, and I ran 18 miles with a full belly and imminent GI distress. When I got to mile 17, I began feeling dizzy and light headed. I guess the ritz crackers and cookies weren’t the best fuel after all 🙂 As I stopped and stared at downtown Cayucos, I thought to myself I can just stop here and drive the rest of the way. What do I have to prove by finishing? And at that moment, two of our support crew found me. One was our club founder’s high school son, and the other was his friend. And what did they do? The three of us ran side by side all the way to the end. In their jeans and all. Talk about selfless. I thanked them for their support, but I don’t know if they’ll ever know how much that meant to me. It was yet another example of the quality of people we had in that club.
As the months went on, I eventually found myself running less with the club. But that was mostly due to me feeling unhappy with myself. And when you’re feeling unhappy with yourself, you tend to shy away from company. Even then, they held a beach run with a pancake cookout for my wife and I as our going away gift. We all ran our 10k from Morro Rock to Cayucos Pier, laughing and chatting much like we all had during our very first run together. So similar yet so different. I knew this may be the last time we all run together, and to this day, it has been. But as we sat there at the rock, eating pancakes and drinking champagne, I knew I would always have wonderful memories of this group to take with me. This group of people, from all different background who shared one common interest.
As I sit here in my office, 800 miles away, I can’t help but think of one more memory. One of the last runs together was a 25k race, which to this day is the farthest race I have completed. Without much detail, it was HELL and HEAVEN all in one. And if anyone has run a long trail race, you know what I mean. I was the only runner from the club to race that distance, while the others ran the 10k. They finished about 2 hours before I did, maybe longer. And what did they do? They ALL stayed and waited for me at the finish. Any of them could have left, but they stayed to cheer me on to the end, and take a photo with me to celebrate. Now unfortunately all the beer was gone by the time I finished, but the picture was worth way more.
Since moving back to Portland, I haven’t found another running club like the Templeton Run Club. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Portland is a Mecca for any kind of running, and there are plenty of options. But each time I’ve gone out with a different club, the vibe just felt different. And perhaps this is me getting in my own way. Trying to compare our old club to a new one. But it’s a feeling, that apparently, I can’t describe. The Templeton Run Club will always hold a special place in my heart, and I don’t think that place will ever be replaced. And that’s OK. I don’t need to replace them. Maybe one day I will find another running club like them, but I doubt it. We were a perfectly blended cocktail, and I will be forever grateful to the people and memories from the Templeton Run Club.
If you ever find yourself down in that little nook of California Coast, and are looking to get a run in, look them up. And get your butt out there. I know they’ll open their arms to you, much like they did to my wife and I that early Tuesday morning.