Well, we continue to enjoy the softest winter in some years. Hardly any snow in our part of the word, and yesterday afternoon it was 50 degrees. Running with the dogs on Feb. 1 in a t-shirt and shorts! Amazing. Note: Yesterday (Feb. 3, 2012) I ran 7 miles with the dogs!
Of course I say "enjoying" knowing that this kind of weather has cut into my opportunities to go downhill skiing this season. I'd like to get at least moderately proficient at it before I get too old to do it at all, and that time is coming...
But the up side is that I've continued to run regularly, which has been good for our dogs as well as for me. It's now February, and with the weather cooperating and with lack of a snowpack, I really haven't stopped running outside this winter. As a result, I feel stronger than ever, and barring any kind of injury, I should enter the 2012 running season in a good position to start finishing races below that 10:00 mile pace that's become my middle-aged baseline.
However, there's one thing new about 2012. I've been checking the Web sites regularly, and out of dozens and dozens on the New Hampshire calendar so far, only a handful are taking place in towns that I haven't yet reached. In past years, by this time I'd have a list of a dozen or more to look forward to, sometimes several on one day to pick from.
But now, after having completed races in 130 of our state's 234 cities, towns, and unincorporated places, the ones left where actual official races take place are becoming few and far in-between.
Well, this had to happen at some point. After all, it's not really reasonable to expect, say, the north country town of Odell (population 0) to hold a 5K anytime soon. And so it looks like the "Running the 234" challenge will be entering a new phase in 2012: one in which I begin to pick up towns where no road race is likely to ever take place, at least in my lifetime.
So, for each of those places, the goal will remain the same: to run at least a 5K within its borders. The only difference now is that it won't be in the form of an official race. And thus I will be able to start adding towns such as Dalton and Windsor to the list of towns completed.
And now that this second phase has started, I have come up with a date by which I want to complete it. The date is Monday, May 14, 2016, when I am exactly 52 years and 121 days old. (I was born on Jan. 14, 1964.) There's a very specific reason for this date, but I am keeping that to myself for now.
And now that I've gotten this far, I have just discovered something that is quite surprising. It seems that I've had my "number of cities, towns, and unincorporated places" wrong all along. It turns out that 234 is the total number of New Hampshire's incorporated cities (13 of those) and towns (they number 221), but that figure does not include the state's unincorporated places, of which there are 25. Ooops! I thought 234 was the total of them all. Learn something new every day.
So what to do? For me, the bottom line is that in completing this challenge, I hope to be able to finally color in every single nook and cranny of my big wall map of New Hampshire. And if I stick with the 234 number, and don't include the 25 unincorporated places (most of which are small slivers of land, but some of which are quite sizeable), then my map won't be colored in.
Well, looks like I just added 25 more locations to run 5K in order to finish this quest. I'm only just now beginning to process what that means, but right now I don't think it will prevent me from completing the quest. So onward we go.