I have a consistently misguided belief that being a 17th Century pirate would have been awesome.
Forgetting for a moment that I have spent no time on the open sea, prefer whiskey to rum, and have never once sacked or plundered, you have to admit, the lifestyle has its allure. The cinematic portrayal always shows a life of fun and adventure, even if you have to endure the occasional violent uprising or missing appendage.
What really sold every twelve-through-twenty-one-year-old boy I knew, though, was the treasure. At some point in your long, illustrious pirate career, you'd come across an old, yellowed sheet of parchment passed down from one father to the next, hidden inside the lining of a coat or peg leg. There would be an indistinguishable starting point near a crude drawing of some kind of squid. You'd laugh about that until it attacked you. Then, the adventure would truly begin, whittling down the numbers of your crew as you journeyed from one oddly-shaped rock to the next until you got to the island where your long lost twin held the final corner of the map and you had a pirate war to see who got the gold.
The treasure map always held a great deal of intrigue to me, and I realized this morning, that you need not be a pirate to draw one up. I've started working on one for Austin runners, or rather for my life as an Austin runner. It runs from 45th in the north to Slaughter in the south, as well as Mopac in the west to 183 in the east. Further south, you're in San Antonio. North, you're in Waco, and East you're in Houston. Don't go west. It's bad there.
The main trade routes run along the lake, an area filled with others going in circles, so the true adventure lies in the boundaries. In one place you've got no sidewalks, making for treacherous encounters with automobiles. Some places hold dangerously high seas, as the road rolls up and down dramatically.
And this morning, I discovered a new territory. Crossing Ben White and moving north on 1st, I saw them. Here be runners. First, I came across a group of three. Then another in front of them, then two more in front of him. I had happened into a mob of my fellow adventurers, no doubt training for the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon happening in a couple weeks. While I have decided not to run said race (and save the money for new shoes), I felt myself in the presence of kindred spirits as we barreled down the hill together. It was a pleasant surprise, and one that I hope to stumble upon in the future.
As I continue to explore the city, I hope to find more little spots of treasure. I'd love to locate some tracks where I can run for free, as well as out-of-the-way running and fitness shops that cater to the individual athletes. I'll add them to my mental map as I chart the unknown in my smelly, size 11 ships.
And (yo ho ho) a bottle of run.