Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Country roads, take me home

I went to college and law school at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. I moved there in 1996 and lived there until 2002. My parents live there now, and after 9 years of living elsewhere, I wonder every time I visit when it will stop feeling like home.

Woodburn Hall, the centerpiece of WVU's downtown campus.
I really didn't run in college. I was a crazy gym rat and worked out almost every day. I would walk miles on the track on campus and on the trail by the river. But running wasn't really my thing. I even walked a few 5Ks in college (one in 33 minutes...that's some fast walking.)

Now that I've been running for nearly six years, I love to run while visiting my parents. Morgantown has so many great places to run - on campus, downtown, on the rail trail along the river. If you're up for challenges, Morgantown's hilly terrain provides lots of them. There have been times where I've gotten to the top of a hill and have to just stand there gasping for breath. It's awesome.

Yes - hills like this on North High Street in downtown Morgantown.
In terms of place, Morgantown is a fantastic small city. It's won many accolades including Forbes' top ten places for business and careers (2010) and one of Budget Travel's top eight college towns (2010) to name a few. (You can look at a more comprehensive list of awards on the city's website.)

Morgantown does a great job of leveraging its anchor institution - WVU. WVU and the city are interchangeable. Downtown Morgantown is effectively an extension of campus with bars, restaurants and shops.  The amount of growth in the city is staggering. Every time I go home (every few months or so) there is a new apartment complex, new restaurant or new shop. The city seems to be bursting at the seams while still maintaining the feel of an intimate small town.

College GameDay visits WVU. Thousands of fans crowd the Mountainlair Plaza
The scenery in Morgantown is second to none with Mountains, the river and a gorgeous campus to tie it all together. Coopers Rock State Forest is just a few miles away, and the views there are just outstanding (particularly in the fall). 

With our Golden Retriever, Murphy, at Coopers Rock
WVU is divided into several campuses, and a monorail (the PRT) connects the campus. The PRT is an old school public transportation system, but it's critical to get students to the various campuses.  

I'm so proud to consider Morgantown my hometown, and I wish there were more running races to do there. Every time we go home I scour websites for a race, and I'm frequently disappointed. Until I find one that meets my schedule I'll continue my favorite runs along the river near my parents' home and on the hills of the Evansdale campus.

Plus I'm going to have to burn off the French fries from my favorite restaurant, The Boston Beanery. Who says you can't go home?

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