A running-related ode to my hometown: Hampstead


Hampstead 1
I said good-bye to my childhood home on Sunday. (Vanessa Junkin photo)


On Sunday, I left for my run from my old home on Whetstone Court for the last time. I’ve run through Hampstead, Maryland, countless times; I have a go-to 5-mile loop, and know the roads well.

Early into my run, I passed my elementary school, Spring Garden Elementary. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

So it was a surreal feeling to know that I may never run these streets again, now that my family is selling the home I moved into at age 2 and grew up in. (Luckily, I grew up right by my elementary school, so I could always park there if I had an intense fixin’ for a Hampstead run.)

I decided to make Sunday’s run a slow run, documenting just some of the places that had been important to me in this town. I went past all three of my schools (all but preschool) — Spring Garden Elementary, Shiloh Middle and North Carroll High. These were all places I spent a decent amount of time growing up, where I met my friends and where I learned from some really cool teachers.

Upon the opening of this store, I was hired as one of the original employees at the Rita’s Italian Ice in Hampstead. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

After passing Spring Garden soon into the run, I ran past the site of my first real job, at Rita’s Italian Ice. I had also worked as a soccer referee, but Rita’s was the first job where I worked hourly and with my peers. I had some good times there and spent three years working there in the summers.

I continued along Route 30 — Main Street. I passed the spot by the old Hampstead school where a walk-through display of Christmas lights would be set up each year. I ran past the home where I went to take piano lessons for about eight years. I ran past the Hampstead Fire Department — right across the street — where there is a carnival every year at the end of summer, a clear sign that the school year is basically here.

I reached the sign for Route 482 and remembered how proud and excited I was the first time I ran there and back from my house. It’s a little less than two miles each way.

I turned onto 482 and headed toward North Carroll High School. Instead of continuing along Panther Drive like I normally did on this route, I ran up the bus loop toward the track.

Here’s a look at Hampstead’s Main Street, including the house where I took piano lessons. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

The North Carroll High School track was where I began running 12 years ago this summer, as a high school freshman. I started with one lap around the track, and worked my way up. I had to run a mile in less than 8 minutes to get on the high school soccer team. I don’t remember what my time was, but I remember I did it. I didn’t make the team.

I would go on to later make the team, not playing very much and finding my real stride in cross country as a senior. I also ran outdoor track all four years.

I just ran a lap around the track on Sunday, as I didn’t really want to do a speed workout. I just wanted to get in a short run there to commemorate the moment.

I remember being happy to make it to this running milestone. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

North Carroll High School closed at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, and students will be redistricted. I don’t know if the track will stay — there were other people there on Sunday, and I hope it does — but in case it doesn’t, I figured I needed to visit one (potentially) last time.

I have been doing the 22-push-ups-for-22-days challenge, and I did my 22 push-ups at North Carroll High, outside the entrance by the gym, while I was there.

I was wearing a cotton T-shirt and shorts on this run. Normally, I would have chosen a tech shirt or a tank top, but I forgot to pack a running shirt. I was thinking this was probably what I would have been running in as a high school student.

I did 5Ks while I was in high school, and I only recall getting T-shirts and one Sport Science shirt. It was a while before I got a tech shirt, and I’m thinking my first introduction to tech shirts probably would have been getting one at a race.

I started running at the North Carroll High School Track, where I returned for a lap on Sunday. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I continued along down the road — Panther Drive becomes Willow Street — to my middle school, Shiloh Middle. I went down the bus loop there just a little bit so I could snap a pic. I saw a bluebird house, or something that looked like one, and it reminded me of the Bluebird Trail that we set up in sixth grade. I also thought about being part of Crewpals, a valuable experience in which as eighth-graders, we got to have pen pals who were in the Navy.

I continued back toward my house, turning on Houcksville Road, back toward Main Street. It was pretty hot and after passing several landmarks, I was ready to get back to my old house.

I ended up with a total of six miles for this run.

I’ll miss Hampstead and its familiarity. I’ll miss my old house, and the memories my family and friends and I had there. I haven’t lived there since I graduated college in winter 2011, but it was always nice to come back to. But the most important thing is the people.

I went to Shiloh Middle School, which opened the school year before I started there. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I’m glad I got in this running good-bye.

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