One of the things I love about going to Orlando in February is the chance to run. I have made the spring trek enough to have developed a couple safe routes around the Orange County Convention Center. This year I left St. Louis with temperatures in the 30s and arrived to the 80s in Florida.
Sunset was nearing when I checked into the hotel. I quickly changed and headed out to a familiar route along Westwood Boulevard. Starting at the Convention Center helped set the mood as I was quickly immersed in the well-manicured landscaping of blooming flowers and vibrant plants. A quick turn and a hidden drive put me ‘backstage’, running along the docks and truck staging area of the center. Having managed events in the convention business for seven years made me comfortable and a bit nostalgic in this area.
This route lead me to a bridge over the busy 528 and onto a sidewalk winding along Westwood Boulevard. There are few streets to cross as I ran through apartment and commercial development. In years past, I have run to Central Florida Parkway for some cross-country running to Sea World entrance. There are a couple great selfie opportunities to share with the folks back home. This year, the heat and heavy legs made me cut the run short of the Sea World stretch.
The sign reminding me to watch out for more than cars was a good place to turn around. I was able to get in five miles which was plenty considering the travel and the fact that the next three days would be spent on my feet at the Convention Center.
I skipped running on Thursday as my day was full. By Friday morning I was ready to hit the streets for another run in the warmth of central Florida. This route took me across International Drive to Universal Boulevard and then to Destination Parkway. Destination is a fairly new road with nice sidewalks that pass through a wide-open stretch and across a bridge over a swampy area. Last trip I saw an alligator as I crossed the bridge. Then in the parking lot where I turned around, I saw a real, live armadillo. I’ve been in the south enough to have seen hundreds of armadillos, normally lying, legs up on the side of the road. This one was walking, away from me of course. Wildlife has been my main safety concern along this route as it has long stretches of new sidewalks with very few road crossings.
Running this route gave me a glimpse of development in Orlando. Change and growth are constant. The wide open stretch along Destination Parkway has at least two significant developments happening. One has a construction fence that was likely as costly as my home. The other looked like early stages of turning swamp into a building site.
The scale of Orlando developments is so much greater than anything I am accustomed to seeing. I ran past one job site entrance around 5:30 Friday morning. As I approached, I saw ten dump trucks in motion on the lane leading to the job site. Then, number eleven turned into the site as I ran between one and two exiting the site. Even if the round trip took an hour per truck, more than a hundred loads of earth would be hauled out per day. I am curious to see what springs up from the swamp by the time I return next year.
Short sleeves and sweat are a rarity for me running outside at this time of year in southeast Missouri. These February runs in Florida boost my running psyche as I know it’s a precursor of that which is to follow. Better days are ahead, but for now I relish in the warmth of Orlando.