By David Yon
I go for a run here,
In hopes that my feet will find,
The place where mind and soul
Can sit, chat and share a cup of coffee
Where sometimes friends drop in
To share in the sweat and toil.
Some places are that special.
Old Centerville Road
The photo hangs on the wall in a breakfast nook in our house. Like the venue it portrays, it has a special place in our lives created by a special person. A large beautiful oak tree sits front right and a low fog hangs over a field in the back of the photo. On the left side, a ramshackle wooden structure seems unlikely to survive the next strong wind, yet it has been there always. Together they are the frame for a wooden grinder sitting ready for a mule to bring it to life to grind grits or cane.
If you step into this photo you will find yourself next door to Bradley’s Country Store, the start line for a very special running venue – Old Centerville Road. The mostly hard packed clay road cuts through the heart of North Florida’s grand plantation lands climbing up and down hills surrounded by oak lined byways, pasture lands, pine forests and swamp lands. Development has made great inroads on this territory (including paving the first two and a quarter miles of the road) over the twenty years I have been running out there, but it remains a spectacular place to run and home to deer and other wildlife. You don’t count the miles out here, you simply run from the second gate on the right at the top of the hill to the large oak at the bottom of the hill after the third plantation or from the old white church at the bottom of the hill to the Georgia state line. It is a place where you can run with yourself and discover an awful lot about your companion, where mind and soul can meet.
Long before he took the photo that hangs in our breakfast nook, Kent Vann introduced me to running on Old Centerville Road. I quickly grew to love running on this dirt road. I had always admired Kent’s photography skills. He had photographed our wedding and had a great skill for capturing the “essence” of places and things. So I tried to commission him to do something for me on the road. Kent, who lost a battle to cancer in May of 1996 at the age of 44, was one of those gracious human beings who just left you feeling better anytime you shared space with him. He never met a stranger having learned a great many of his lessons in life from Mayberry, RFD. Of course he wasn’t about to take a cent for the photo, so one day he just showed up with a gift. I am certain there is some part of him that still runs that road and I rarely make the trip over the hills without thinking about his kindness.
I am glad the 30K has found this venue for awhile at least and I hope those who run it get a chance to understand why they go for a run.