Honors and Running in Iowa

Mary Bump-Lowe 2009 recipient of the distinguished alumni award.
Mary Bump-Lowe 2009 recipient of the distinguished alumni award.

This weekend I flew to Des Moines, Iowa for a family function.  My mother has been honored as a distinguished member of the Alumni at Dowling High School.  This annual award recognizes Dowling or St. Joseph graduates who have distinguished themselves and serve as positive role models for the student body.  The annual event recognizes two alumni members for their achievement or service.

An individual must have graduated from Dowling High School or St. Joseph Academy more than 10 years ago.  Individuals should be nominated and will be selected on distinction in two of the following areas.

  • Distinction in their professional life
  • Distinction in service to their community
  • Service as a positive and inspiring role model to young adults
  • Commitment to the Dowling/SJA community

The event included a speech from the recipients, a homecoming pep rally, homecoming football game and party.  It was a great event and we all had a good time.  Way to go mom!

Before getting on the flight I ran 8 miles and still had a twinge of the cold I’d been nursing.  My sinuses had cleared but the deep congested hack persisted.  Sitting on the plane and coughing every so often probably had a few of my plane partners wondering why I hadn’t stayed home.  I swear I’m not contagious!

After checking into the West Des Moines Marriott, I mapped a course on GoogleMaps so when Friday morning came I’d be ready to hit the road.  I plotted a simple 6 mile course that went 2.3 miles south down the six lane road to a dead end, made a left on a 4 lane road to another 6 lane road and back to the hotel.  It was a simple rectangle.  Easy!

It was about 5:30am and there had been a morning thundershower so the streets were wet and dotted with puddles of water.  I looked skyward and twilight had not yet begun to brighten the darkness but the lights of the city bounced off the remaining clouds and I could see that the storm was breaking up.  I recalibrated the Garmin Watch (it asked if I’d traveled 100’s of miles from my last location) and down the road I went.

In Los Angeles, no matter what time of day I run there is always some kind of activity.  A taxi leaving for an early morning flight, a trash truck, some large grocery store semi-tractor trailer delivering items or a car on it’s way to work or on its way home from a long night of doing God knows what (believe me, I’ve seen the swerving).

On a Friday morning in West Des Moines there was nothing.  The stoplights changed for no one, I gave a respectful glance down the cross streets but no traffic impeded my progress, I had the rain soaked streets to myself. In this urban serenity I got lost in my audio book and civilization soon gave way to open fields as a light breeze began to blow from the west.  It was really beautiful and before long I realized the streetlights had disappeared, I’d passed the 2.3 mile ‘dead end,’ and the road had narrowed to two lanes.   I was running in the dark as the Garmin ticked off mile 3 and I realized Google had steered me wrong – there was no dead end.

So the question was, keep running down the road or turn around.  I’ve been so careful in all my training to not retrace my steps and I was determined not to start now.  I remembered from GoogleMaps that there was a river coming up so I figured the road was either going to cross it with a bridge or turn to the left and follow it back to the city.  Iowa’s clean air and the rustling trees emboldened my running and I kept going.

Out of the darkness a pair of headlights approached from the east.  Cutting my road from a perpendicular angle they came to what looked like an intersection about ½ mile ahead.  The beams turned toward me and I thought, well, why wait for the river, I’ll try making a left there.

The Gravel Road - Found it on Google after the run!
The Gravel Road - Found it on Google after the run!

As I approached I saw that the road the car had come from was gravel but several miles ahead there were city lights so maybe it met with another paved road somewhere out there in the blackness.  The rain soaked gravel and mud made it hard to run on either side of the road so I ran in the middle where the footing was solid.  As I ran, I was listening to another Harry Bosch Novel from Michael Connelly.  Twilight was just beginning to etch into the night sky and ahead I thought I could see two figures approaching.  I told myself that it was my imagination – who else would be dumb enough to be running on a muddy gravel road pre-dawn.  I did a double take and sure enough, there were two other joggers coming up in the mud.  Harry was chasing his perp and the suspense of the novel had me thinking I was about to be abducted on a secluded dirt road outside West Des Moines, my body would be found months from now… but the two joggers went by saying an enthusiastic, “Good Morning!” Catching my breath I remembered I was in Iowa, not the slums of LA and said, ‘Mornin.”  Funny… maybe I should switch to some different reading material.

Around 1 mile later I came across another dirt road rising to the north.  On a leaning galvanized pole the street sign read 60th Street – exactly where I wanted to turn!  Up the hill I went, slipping occasionally on the mud.  The morning light was revealing more of my surroundings and I could see that the road would soon meet with pavement, stoplights and civilization.  I soon rounded the corner to the Marriott and had completed an 8 mile run.  After downloading the coordinates into the Garmin software, I noticed that none of the roads appear on the corresponding map.  The subdivisions out there must be so new – they don’t exist on google or garmin yet.

The Iowa run!
The Iowa run!

I’m back home now and put in 10 miles in this morning.  It’s always good to run on home turf but I look forward to being in Iowa again.  Its always entertaining.


tom lowe photo, llc

tacoma, wa 98406



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