Places to see, races to run

Tony Casey • May 22, 2014 at 1:09 PM

Here, right here, every week, you’re going to find something new. The intention of my new column in the Johnson City Press is to find places and activities worth exploring.

Perhaps your ears, like mine, suffer every time you hear someone say, “There’s nothing to do here.” I look out the window to see the readily explorable higher elevations in the background, a 5K road race zipping through my neighborhood, an intense adult kickball game taking place at an area park and a million other local adventures going on in the Johnson City area.

It’s hard to believe there’s nothing to do. And now, through this column, I hope to serve as a valuable avenue in the effort to squash that concept here in the Tri-Cities.

Who am I to tell you about recreation in the area? A fair question.

I’m a 2008 graduate of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, having earned a degree in journalism. I got into writing by way of another huge interest of mine — distance running. Being a 19-minute 5K runner at the time didn’t provide me with many options as professional competitor — it may sound fast, but not in the world of competitive running. So I decided the best way to stay close to running was to write about it. Having written about high school, collegiate and professional running for a few years, all while slightly bettering my own personal-bests, I found my way to Johnson City and into my role at the Johnson City Press. As a general assignment and features reporter, I get to talk to many of the active, fun, idea-filled people this area has to offer.

Through these people and experiences, I want to relay to you some of the fun that can be had.

You’ll pardon me if I fall back to my old ways and write more frequently about running-related topics than the rest, but I want you to use my email address as a receptacle for good ideas or things you’ll like to see me write about. Having grown up in what I thought were some of the toughest conditions a runner could know — the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York — I was swiftly corrected when I started training around Johnson City.

Some of the most striking differences between here and other places I’ve trained is, obviously, the amount of hills. Maybe at first I despised them, but now I welcome running in the hills. It’s nearly impossible to run more than a mile in any part of Johnson City without going up or down a gargantuan hill. I suppose you could run back and forth on the sidewalk next to State of Franklin Road between Buffalo Street and South Greenwood Drive, but you’re missing out on some of the best neighborhoods and scenery the area has to offer. Whether you are running, walking, hiking or biking, embrace the hills, learn to love the hills, be one with the hills.

Another thing I’ve come across here is the area’s love of distance running. Johnson City boasts the 35-minute 5K weekend warrior as well as a world record holder, and both should be applauded for bettering the sport. The history around Johnson City is remarkable, from Boston Marathon winners of the past to a thriving race-filled calendar for the every day runner. Running is more important around here than any other place I’ve been before, and I’ve tried to take advantage.

Finding the best runners the area has to offer, my 5K personal record has dropped to 16:15, all while holding onto a streak I hold close to my heart. I have gone on a run every day for the last three and a half years, averaging about seven miles per day over that stretch. I haven’t missed a single day.

I’m by no means an expert on running or any of the topics I’ll discuss, but I’ll have something to add to the conversation and hope you’ll do the same. I look forward to hearing your feedback, maybe inspiring those people who think there’s nothing to do in the area, and have fun in the meantime. Swimming holes, ramp patches, toughest hill to run in Johnson City, easiest race, hardest race, whatever you think would be good information for a good column, let me have it.Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP.Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.

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