“Home is a place you grow up hoping to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”– Ed Pearce
There were a few years when coming home to Boulder on a frequent basis was not an option; making a ‘home’ in Japan, 13,000 miles away meant that our visits were few and far between. And so, each time I would set foot again in our valley, I noticed ten-fold all of the small changes that occurred as I grasped onto the place that Boulder had been, imprinted on my little being. And changes in Boulder are always underway – establishments come and go, progression is constant. To the point that, by the time we moved back to the United States two years ago, the place that bore and bred me looked nothing like what I remembered it to be. On the outside, anyway.
There was once a Dairy Queen in North Boulder and I would ride my bike down from Balsam Drive to get Blizzards in the summers. Tom’s Tavern once occupied the corner of Pearl and 9th Street, where now only the antiquated mural remains. None of the multi-million dollar apartments used to exist at One Boulder Place, and there was once only one place in town where you could buy a huge, warm Moe’s Bagel with an astonishing amount of cream cheese for $1.25. (And, no, cream cheese was not called “shmear.”)
But underneath all of the superficiality, (and the spandex, new Audis, carbon-fiber dreams and bright tech fabric yuppie-dom) the sun still always seems to be shining in the Boulder Bubble. Residents have, literally out their back doors, some of the best hiking, biking and running trails in the country. And no matter who you are, the ominous, jaw-dropping peaks of the Flatirons will cause a flutter in your heart and paint a smile on your face as you drive into the Valley from the East. Its as if you’re being embraced by them. And they are, at once, a destination and a direction, indicating ones’ small place in the world, and in the moment.
Whatever Boulder was, or is, I am still drawn back each chance I get. These past couple of years, an trip back to Boulder for Memorial Day has become a tradition – of all the weekends to recall the glory in the Republic of Boulder, this is it. Citizens and visitors alike hit the streets, the creek and burst out into the sunshine, celebrating summer vibrantly.
I might as well have been headed to any other city of excitement, I was so giddy when I boarded the plane with my backpack early on Saturday morning – a long weekend visiting family, wonderful old friends, and enjoying all of the best that my hometown had to offer lay ahead.
An early afternoon trail run on the Marshall Mesa Trail, on the outskirts of town, lattes and King Kong Muffins at Breadworks in the Ideal Marketplace. Mixing oldies with new goodies – brunch at Salt, lunch at The Mediterranean, dinner at The Kitchen. Strolling on Pearl Street and shopping at here and there. Perusing the Boulder Creek Festival full of food, music, vendors, and sunshine. Reveling in the lack of oxygen in the air, enjoying the high altitude, and breathing in those gorgeous mountains. My family and I are so lucky to have this as the backdrop for our lives. This is where we call home.
Surely, one of the highlights of Memorial Day weekend here is the running of the Bolder Boulder. My mother ran this race long before I was born. Long before it was one of the largest races in the country. I don’t know how many times I have run this race — each year, a little faster, but it never seems to be about the speed for me – I get into a zone, running the course on roads that I know so well I don’t need to know their names to know their width and path. Past the houses in which we grew up, and where my husband grew up too. Along the routes that we used to walk home from school. Past the first place I every worked as a lifeguard – the hills where we would ride bikes seemed so much steeper then. Oh, and the corner where I waited for the bus in 3 feet of snow that one winter. Hips gliding along, feet light — the schoolyard where my brother slipped on the ice and the park where we took Gunner for his first walk as our puppy are just a few blocks away. The houses have been remodeled and painted, but the corners are still the same.
There are acts all along the course – the belly dancers, the Elvis impersonators, and I smile at them as I pass. At least a couple of years, their presence was the most interesting thing about running this race, spending Memorial Day in this way. The whole city shuts down, it seems, to celebrate. And so, I sponged up the experience, smiling all the way to Folsom Stadium – a course I must have driven one million times over when I was young. To swim practice in the summer, after school in high school and to coach after college. Sometimes running a race is rewarding because you reach the finish. This 10k is all about the journey for me.
Running into that stadium, I couldn’t have been more connected to my roots and I felt as if I was literally glowing with glee, brighter than any of the other 57,000 runners sweating and heaving up that last hill.
I floated in, beneath the banner of mountains that has always been the method I used to tell which direction was which. Without those mountains, still to this day, I am sure I would be completely lost.