Sunday, September 12, 2010

Running on Deer Isle: Part 1

This fall, a series of four essays is running in the Island Ad-Vantages, the local newspaper for Deer Isle and Stonington, ME. After each of my essays appears in the paper, I will also post it here. I have added a photo to jazz up this blog coverage.

I’m a runner, and I’ve been running on Deer Isle for 15 years. It’s a beautiful place to run, and I recently realized that there were a lot of places on the island where I had never been, so in the fall of 2009 I decided to run every road on Deer Isle. During the past year, each visit to Deer Isle has been an exploratory adventure: I pick out a road on the map, drive my car to the spot, and run down yet another collection of small dirt roads, not knowing what I will find at the end or along the way.

I first came to Deer Isle when I was two months old, and I first ran on the island the summer when I was ten, in preparation for joining the cross country team in fifth grade. For the next decade or so, my runs on the island were predictable: I would run out my front door and run out to Route 15 and back a few times, or maybe run to the end of the Sunset Crossroad and back.

Of course, I also ran the Fourth of July Fun Run in Stonington. Some of you may remember my epic duel with Wally Fifield back in 1996: I was 11; he was about 45; we shared the lead all along Cemetery Road and Route 15, until I made a wrong turn at the harbor. Wally got a little ahead of me, and though I sprinted to catch back up, he was able to just out-lean me at the finish line. I ran the Fun Run for four years in a row in the late ‘90s, and now I run the Stonington Six every year.

Once, just before I left the island for my senior year of college, I “ran around the island,” completing a 17-mile loop of Route 15, 15A, and Sand Beach Road. Three years later, I decided to run all the roads on the island. I printed a map of Deer Isle, and highlighted all the roads I had run. Most of the main roads were done, but clearly visible on the map were the hundreds of roads I knew nothing about, like little fingers stretching from the main roads towards the ocean.

That summer, anyone who ran with me joined me on a new road. On Fourth of July weekend, my brother and his wife joined me on a 9-mile run looping around Dunham Point Road and Pressey Village Road. On Labor Day, my boyfriend joined me on a 7-mile run of the Oceanville Road. These are beautiful places! My sister-in-law loved how the Dunham Point Road repeatedly brought us to beautiful views of the water, with the Sylvester’s Cove beach as well as some little private inlets. Why had none of us ever run out there before? We didn’t know what we were missing!

Last winter, I started running the little roads in earnest. I would look at the map of the island, find a main road with a lot of little roads off it, and then set off to run them, highlighting the roads on my map when I was done. The Sunday before Christmas, I ran home from church in a blizzard, and ran all of the little roads off of 15A on the way. On Christmas day, a mild, dry day without much snow on the ground, my boyfriend and I ran the eastern half of the Reach Road, 13 miles of little dirt roads stretching towards the Eggemoggin Reach. A few days later, we ran the Dow Road in the pouring rain, a place where I had never even driven.

Here I am after running home the Sunday after Christmas in a blizzard.

I doubt that anyone has ever run all of the roads on Deer Isle; it just seems too unusual. Some people may have been to all the roads on Deer Isle – especially Hubert Billings, the island’s code enforcement officer. But many people haven’t seen every road, so I would like to share with you my experiences running everywhere on the island, since you have likely never been to some of the places I’ve visited. Over the next few weeks, I will write several more columns about the strange and beautiful things I’ve seen, and I hope you enjoy them nearly as much as I have.

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