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Friday, January 10, 2014

Moving Forward / Looking Back

By Ron Bateman

I love running. I’ve been blessed to run all over the world – from the dusty, chaotic streets of Delhi to the crisp, springtime of the Dalmatian Coast. Of all the places I’ve run the calm, rolling hills of the Gettysburg National Military Park has long been my favorite. The respectful solemnity of that space was (and has been upon reflection) the perfect place to run. After a week in Derry, Northern Ireland, though, I have yet to get out and run the streets of this historic, important city.

The days here – the stories and the sharing – have been emotional and sleep has been fitful. Yesterday (after turning over and over again in bed), I gave up on getting any more rest and headed up to the fourth floor of the Tower Hotel to get on the treadmill. I began running on one of two archaic treadmills that sit facing the southwest in front of floor-to-ceiling windows. The 400-year old city walls, directly adjacent to the hotel were barely visible below. The Bogside and Creggan areas of the city sat silently centered in the windows.  The famous murals, telling the story of the Troubles, could be made out if I looked closely.  The silhouettes of the 3-story row houses disappeared as the slope climbed to an almost touchable horizon. The headlights of an occasional vehicle moved through the streetlights, like shooting stars across the night sky.

It was then, as I was running, that I came to the realization that we are in the middle of a battlefield that the casual traveler may never know. Its shape and character stand in stark contrast to those of the United States, replete with a visitor’s center and a crowded parking lot. To be certain, there are very visible signs, like the Bloody Sunday Memorial, but many are much less so, like a tiny plaque on the side of a building or an innocuous pile of flowers on the sidewalk on Shipquay Street.

I contemplate what it means to exist in it every day? As opposed to being removed from it, only to visit on occasion.  Could you heal faster or would it be so much harder?  Would it facilitate moving forward (individually and collectively) or keep you looking back?  I don’t readily know the answers to these questions and myriad others.  And I won't before I leave.  But I do know I have to get out and go running…soon.

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