The best way to be a tourist in your own town


“Lace up. Let’s go”

For all but 10 of my 35 years of life I have lived in Northern Kentucky/Great Cincinnati.

Sadly enough I can say I only knew a few miles of the area, mostly in Independence, KY, the one time rural sleepy town with lots of pastures and few sidewalks. It was there I would ride my bike up and down the two streets of my neighborhood, then later drive my car to school, the swim club and friends’ houses.  That described my world for so long.

Like Nosferatu (or many native Northern Kentuckians) I rarely ventured across moving water (ie the Ohio River)) into Cincinnati, and only went to Covington to see my one set of grandparents. A true suburbanite, I feared the city for its crime, and well, being different from the quiet little town I was from.

My knowledge of the larger area was limited even after returning in 2004. Having lived in Bowling Green, KY from August 1994 to May 1999 for college and from August 1999 to 2004 for graduate school and other adventures in Oklahoma, I found I didn’t really have buddies who were prone to explore when I moved back.

I mean sure, there were those times I snuck over to Ludlow Ave. or Sitwell’s as a teenager with my swim club friends who were more worldly and well-travelled indeed. Still, 34 years of life, 24 years in the area and I could say I never ventured to Findley Market.

I probably would still be in the same boat if it was not for one small hobby I picked up, running. Slipping on a pair of comfortable running shoes and joining a group enlarged my world locally by leaps and bounds, literally.

I thought about this Sunday, as I parked my car in Newport west of Monmouth Street, ran back toward and over the Purple People Bridge, down Pete Rose Way toward Riverside Drive into Sawyer Point and back across the Southgate-Taylor Bridge and Monmouth to my car for an over 4 mile run. 

Short indeed, but thinking about my marathon training, running stamped so much of this city and riverfront into the soles of my shoes, muscle, sinew and bone. I know Cincinnati.

I know what it feels like and looks like at 7 a.m. in the frigid cold, when the church groups are throwing logs to burn for the homeless under bridges.

I know the feeling of cold, bone chilling rain running up the hill to Newport Catholic High School at night.

I know the outside of the Cincinnati Art Museum on a lovely spring night as patrons exit the place and I loop the lot, planning my descent down the winding streets of Mount Adams.

I know the desolate run down Eastern Ave. heading back downtown. I know the run out to Lunken starting from Newport. I know the stinky places and pretty places and places that scream with so much potential and of being abandoned.

I know Mariemont. I know all of these place I never knew before because I ran them. I’ve known pure adrenaline and pain and defeat and victory. In the course of a year running I know more about the area I am from than a lifetime of living before it. I even know more about Independence, running miles there often on new and old sidewalks alike.

It is why i truly believe the best way to travel is by feet, or perhaps bicycle, if you really want to know a place.

Through running I gained a deeper tactile relationship with where I am that I can truly appreciate. I long to run to meet those streets and its people again.

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