I took a day off from work last week to slow down, to take a breather from all the endless activity at this time of the year. A long run is a perfect way to do it.
The only limitation I put on the run was that I would not drive anywhere to start. And I would keep in mind it was bitterly cold, especially out of the sun when the wind picked up. Not a day to run along the Niagara River.
But as the Norwegians were quoted as saying a few too many times during the winter Olympics: there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. So I dressed for the conditions, going back into the house and changing into fleece running pants and adding a Gore-Tex jacket to handle the wind.
Marty Farrell, who provides the energy for the South Buffalo Athletic Club, had a good idea a few months back. He suggested I get readers of this column to nominate their favorite runs. With that in mind, I set off on my favorite from my house, a couple of blocks from Delaware Park.
Because of the cold, I decided to head toward Forest Lawn and get away from the wind to start things off. I could deal with cold gusts better once I got warmed up.
I entered at the Main Street gate near the superintendent's house, making sure that on the way there I ran over the grates near the rapid transit stop. It's more symbolic in the winter, but during the hottest days of summer, it's a treat to get those blasts of cold air coming up from the depths below.
I also had to slow down past Canisius College and check the progress on St. Vincent de Paul church, under renovation by Canisius as a cultural center. Decades of grime had recently been cleaned off and the church stands out now almost like a bright penny. But the stone is still gorgeous; it just needs a little seasoning.
Once inside the cemetery gate, I hit my favorite route, a path through the various winding roads that largely avoids straight, up-and-down hills while giving a generous view of Buffalo's most gorgeous park. Sorry, Mr. Olmsted, this place has necessarily remained truer to its original vision than the adjoining park.
Art purists would consider me a rube for saying so, but it's hard to imagine the millions upon millions of dollars it would take to re-create Forest Lawn today, with all its statuary, stained glass and magnificent plantings.
The ducks and geese that overwinter are busy today along the Scajaquada Creek. The ducks sound like they're laughing hysterically at something and keep at it so long I start laughing myself. I do a quick look around to see if anyone is doubting my sanity. There are thousands of people around me, but no one is saying much.
My route is 30 minutes long from the Canisius gate to the Delaware Avenue gate. On some days, I just reverse it and see everything from a different vantage point. Today, I head back out into the world.
I run down West Delavan Avenue, past a friend's house where hundreds of crows have dug up her front lawn so much it looks like it's been thatched. No crows this day. They seem to have moved on to the high trees along Bidwell Parkway and Elmwood Avenue.
I cut down Chapin Parkway, and run along the broad, tree-lined boulevard that is truly deserving of the name, not a hurried, traffic-clogged street where pedestrians are unwelcome. I head down Lincoln Parkway, then cut over to Forest Avenue and leave the mansions behind for a different kind of grandeur, the muscular towers of Henry Hobson Richardson at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.
My route takes me around the perimeter of grand old, shuttered brick buildings and I leave the hospital grounds near the maintenance facility at Buffalo State College. Two groups of guys are facing off in the playing field, and as I run by I hear the boisterous yells of the opening kickoff for a sandlot football game. They're playing tackle. With no equipment. Ah, youth.
Up and over the campus I go, past the running track that Buffalo State may one day resurface, onto the Grant Street bridge over Route 198. At the Squajaquada Pathway, I pause. To the left is the newly completed section that heads to Niagara Street. To the right, the old path eventually leads back home.
I check my watch and see I've been out 50 minutes. In the summer, I'd probably head west. Today, with the sun now a memory and the air still chilled, I'll stay closer to home. I run east. The creek is to my right, and to the left is Assumption Church, then a small playground, basketball courts, Wegmans and McKinley High School before the path dips under the Elmwood bridge and on past the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society.
It's cold but some visitors have taken the time to walk down to the Japanese Gardens and the magnificent vista across Mirror Lake and on to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Imagine what it looked like before Route 198 cut through it like a scar. Humboldt Parkway was so broad that when the expressway was built, not a single house had to be demolished.
From here, it's on to Delaware Park and home. I take the long way around the park so I can see the great shaggy bison at the zoo.
Got a favorite running route? Send it to me by e-mail: email@example.com; or by mail: Running, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.
Last Race of the Year, 2 laps of Delaware Park, 3.6 miles, 11 a.m., today, 636-4238; Gordon's Gallop, one lap around the Delaware Park Meadow, free, 11:45 p.m., Fri., 837-3031; Resolution 5K, noon, New Year's Day, Williamsville, 633-1635.