Which running venue do you most prefer – trail, track or cemetery? If you’ve never run among the dead, you’re missing a life-affirming experience, and Halloween is a great time to experience it. (Unless, like me, you’re awash in Frankenstorm, in which case, wait for Nov. 1, the official Day of the Dead.)
It never would have occurred to me to run in a cemetery, but for a newspaper colleague of mine long ago, who used to run in Elmwood Cemetery, in my hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. Pam, a photographer, always struck me as somewhat of a rebel, the kind of person who would run anywhere regardless of any menacing “Keep Out” signs.
I, however, am somewhat of a coward, the kind of person who is intimidated by the “Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law” tags on bossy mattress and pillows. So before I ran there for the first time, I called the office to make sure it was all right.
“Yes, you can run here,” a gracious receptionist said. “We have 150 acres, and anyone is welcome to run or walk on the grounds. Just be respectful of anyone in mourning.”
Of course. Common sense suggests that when running through graveyards, we stay clear of ceremonies, hearses and weeping. And deep, rectangular holes. Also, that we might dress a little more modestly than we do while running with the Harriers or alone on a track. And that we conclude our runs well before dark.
But, odd as it might seem, large cemeteries are perfect for running. They have well-maintained paths and roads, they’re scenic and quiet, and you’re unlikely to be run over by an irate motorist going 65 in a 35 zone.
An added plus for me: none of the inhabitants look with disdain at my wide load.
Not so I can see, anyway.
There’s a melancholy that settles on you while running among the dead, to be sure. A lot of people avoid graveyards because, like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, they point to our own eventual fate. But running in a cemetery reminds me that any day above ground is a good day, regardless of how much my overused hamstrings ache.
And, it’s also just kind of cool. And yes, rebellious, in a Death-I-Scoff-at-You kind of way.
For added fun this week, do it with a Halloween playlist on your iPod. Mine always includes “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas, “Witchy Woman” by the Eagles, “Abracadabra” by the Steve Miller Band, and of course, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
A note of caution: Not every cemetery is as accommodating as Elmwood in South Carolina. If you, like me, cower in the face of authority, check in at the office before becoming one of the Running Dead. One cemetery I checked out recently in Medway, Ma., had no office, but made it clear that runners aren’t welcome, with a sign that says not even vehicles can go faster than a walk!
SALTIES, Have you ever run in a graveyard? And what’s on your Halloween running playlist?