Friday, April 17, 2015

Things Aren't Always How We Remember Them

As many of you know, an EF-4 tornado touched down in north central Illinois last Thursday night, traveling almost 30 miles and spending 41 minutes on the ground. Most of the twister's path was through open farm fields, but it did cause considerable damage and has affected the lives of hundreds of people.

The tornado touched down outside Rochelle, a town that is about 50 miles west of where I live. Since I had watched the live stream of a couple of stormchasers, I had a pretty good idea of where it went, so on Friday and Saturday I went out to take a look. I wasn't really interested in the damage it caused -- in fact, that made me very sad -- I was more interested in it from a weather perspective and how it affected the land it went over.

Kevin was with me on Saturday and eventually we traced the tornado's path almost back to the beginning. It was truly a very humbling experience to see the power of nature when it decides to get angry. The need to feel in control is part of being human, but in the end we have very little control over anything, and are just a small part of a big universe.

Here are a couple of pictures. I refrained from taking pictures of anyone's homes because I thought that would be disrespectful, but I hope this photo of where the tornado crossed Interstate 39 shows what something like that does to anything in its path.

As I followed along the path I eventually ended up in the town of Belvidere, which is where I lived with my family from October, 1974 to July, 1978. I was in kindergarten when we moved in and had just finished third grade when we left. My oldest sister stayed behind as she had gotten married and started a family, but when they left town in the early 90s, my visits to Belvidere were few and far between.

Belvidere isn't all that big, it had about 14,000 residents when we lived there and how has around 25,000, but when I was living there it seemed as big as Chicago! Being that it was the 1970s, I was given a lot of freedom to explore, and so I spent a lot of time riding my bike or walking places, and it never seemed like I ran out of places to go.

But when I drove through there last week I realized how small everything really is. My best friend's house was just 1 1/2 blocks away, and when I was little it seemed like it was this long trek down the street, even when I was running as fast as I could, when in reality it's only about 150 yards. The side yard of our house was big enough to hit plastic baseballs around, but it's really only about 20 feet wide!

I drove around a little more, and all of these places that were epic journeys at the time: to my grade school, my sisters' high school or even the place we played baseball during the summer, are now just a few blocks away. Some of that is due to the magic of being a child, but it's also because as we grow our perspective on things changes.

As I drove around, I started thinking about how this relates to running. One thing about me most people don't know is that I end up trying to relate things to running a lot. And auto racing. And baseball.

It's just when I thought about how my perspectives have changed over the years it is a lot like running. When you first start, everything is so big and overwhelming, and to many even the shortest distances seem like a great journey. But as you grow as a runner and your confidence rises, the world you run in gets a little smaller.

All of the sudden, a 5K is a comfortable distance, and maybe you take on the challenge of running further. You start training to run longer distances, or traveling to different places to run and race, and suddenly you realize that the mile loop around your block that once seemed endless, maybe even impossible, is now just a warm-up for a longer run, and your neighborhood just doesn't look at big as it used to.

It's sorta funny how that works, doesn't it? No matter where you are in your running life, it's always a great thing to look back and remember where you came from, and that no matter what, things aren't always as big as they seem.

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