Every morning I meet my teammates and run at Lakebottom Park in Midtown Columbus. We run the same mundane figure 8 loop each time, taking each step as if we were on auto pilot. However, on a particularly cloudy day, we decided to venture out and explore the surrounding streets.
The beeps of our GPS watches started us on our normal route. The packed sand path was never my favorite surface to run on so changing to the asphalt road felt like I was actually getting traction. The first road we turned down is part of the historic Weracoba/St. Elmo district. It was the quintessential southern street with big trees along the borders of the sidewalks. Each house had unique character, unlike the cookie-cutter neighborhood I grew up in on the north side of town. I realized this even further when I saw a giant plastic giraffe in the front yard of a house. It was at least 9 feet tall. The group quickly decided that this would be called the “Giraffe Route.”
Our next turn was onto 13th street, which leads into downtown and the Chattahoochee River. Midtown is one of those areas where you can be in a really nice neighborhood and one street over is a not so nice area. That’s exactly what happened. We soon found ourselves by the Warren Williams Homes, one of the low-income housing neighborhoods in Columbus. A lot of bad things happen in this area so we picked up our pace.
There were four of us in the group and we all took turns picking a direction when we came to a fork in the road. It was my turn to choose so I decided to head further downtown. In front of us was the short tunnel that runs underneath the main industrial train station. I’ve driven through this tunnel before but running through it was completely different. The sidewalk got extremely narrow because we were sharing it with a large pipe that ran the length of the tunnel. It smelled of mildew and garbage. I tried to hold my breath, but I couldn’t do that while running. As soon as we reached the threshold of the tunnel, I gasped for a breath of “fresh” air. I say “fresh” because factories surrounded us. If I listened close enough, I could hear the movements of machines. Steam was coming out of the loading docks of the different businesses.
The buildings have probably been there since Columbus started so many years ago. The area was really run down and neglected, but there are signs of improvement. The roads have been repaved recently and the median had nicely groomed bushes and trees. At the end of the road is the old Swift Mill. I’ve heard so much about it but I never had a chance to check it out. It was once a warehouse where denim was made but had been abandoned for several years. Then, part of the mill burned down because of homeless people burning fires inside. Now, the mill serves as trendy loft apartments with tall ceilings and big glass windows. The mixture of newly renovated buildings and rundown buildings in the area creates an interesting atmosphere.
We finally started heading back to Lakebottom to round out our “Giraffe Loop.” On the left was Linwood Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Columbus. I haven’t had the courage to explore that yet, but one day I will. We continued to pass by abandoned buildings that were once bustling shopping areas. A nice downhill led us back to where we started and we hit 6 miles on our GPS watches. It was a nice change of scenery and I look forward to trying a different route another day. No more figure 8 loops for me.
[exercise in preparation for Travel Writing course in Paris]