How I ran every single street in Westlake in 2016!

Dan Last takes the final steps in his yearlong project to run every street in Westlake. Photo by Megan Last

I have always felt that there is no better way to get a sense of a place than to run it. Running connects us to a place in a way that sitting in a car does not. Is it smelling the fresh air, seeing the different houses and buildings or hearing the sound of footsteps on the pavement? Perhaps it is merely the fact that when we run, we slow down and appreciate our surroundings as nature intended. 

I moved to Westlake seven years ago from Los Angeles, California, and although I have been very pleased with my decision to settle in Northeast Ohio, it didn’t feel like “home.” With a desire to truly connect with my adopted city, I made the decision in January 2016 to run every single street in Westlake. I obtained a city street map from City Hall and proudly hung it in my basement.

Admittedly, my map hung on the basement wall for almost two full months without any attention. The specially purchased marker to highlight each street remained sealed in its plastic package and a thin layer of dust covered the map’s frame. Every runner knows that the most difficult part of any run is in those first few steps. 

On a sunny and brisk February morning, I took those first steps on a scenic 9-mile run from my home to North Olmsted and back. After that first run, I was hooked. Following that kickoff, I carefully planned each run in advance using a combination of GPS technology and good old-fashioned paper maps to ensure that no street was missed. Upon the completion of each run, I would dash into my basement to record my route and my mileage.

As all years do, 2016 had its ups and downs. There were freak weather patterns to consider, injuries to nurse and the general demands of everyday life. But my commitment was strong and even on the hardest days I would return home from a run with a great sense of accomplishment and the pride that I was moving closer toward my goal.

My year-long quest was accomplished in mid-December 2016 with my wife following me in her car to celebrate the final few blocks. Of the thousands of steps that were taken in this project, the final few felt the best. As a longtime runner, I am always looking for a new challenge to get me off of the couch and enjoying the outdoors. I have competed in runs at varying distances and terrains including mud runs, relays, and a five-hour obstacle course. But the feeling of running every street in your town is unique and memorable. 

I used to drive through Westlake glancing down some side streets and ask myself what could possibly be around that next corner. Now I know with certainty. My town has no unfamiliar streets. If you live here, I have run past your home. Maybe you were one of the dozens of friendly people who shared a wave or a nod or even sprayed me down with your hose in the heat of our summer. What was once a strange city no longer feels so foreign; it finally feels like home.

By the numbers – some statistics from my year-long quest:

  • 221 miles – the official mileage count to cover every street in Westlake. The number is higher than expected due to dead end streets and roads that had to be run more than once.
  • 49 runs – the number of times I ran in Westlake in 2016
  • 4.5 miles – the average length of each run
  • 42 hours and 45 minutes – the total running time it took to complete this project
  • 343,155 steps – the number of steps I took to complete this project

Dan Last

Dan Last is a proud Westlake resident along with his wife, Megan, and their two dogs, Gladys and Edith.

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Volume 9, Issue 1, Posted 10:12 AM, 01.10.2017