A firsthand (foot) approach to Holyoke
How well do you know Holyoke?
Maybe you know the downtown businesses that spread out from the stoplight.
Maybe you know the street where you grew up and the places where your friends live.
Maybe you have well-worn routes to and from schools, parks and churches.
But do you know the nooks and crannies of Holyoke? Do you know the far edges of the city limits? The neighborhoods across town? The undisturbed streets tucked away in the corners?
Earlier this month, Sarah Lake learned more about Holyoke, bit by bit, step by step, as she ran down the streets of town.
Every. Single. Street.
“I enjoyed seeing there was more to Holyoke than I had experienced,” said Lake.
She and husband Jared Sullivan live in the Denver area but were in Holyoke for three weeks to visit family for Christmas.
Lake was inspired by a friend named Rickey Gates. After this ultra runner finished a run across America, he took on the challenge of running down every single street in his adopted hometown of San Francisco, California.
Now, people across the globe are following in his footsteps and running down the streets of their own cities, using the hashtags #everysinglestreet and #ESS.
On Gates’ website, he said that when he passed through a city on his cross-country run, it was like looking at a single page of a book. This time, he wanted full immersion.
“To walk across a place is to observe and participate in a vast, intricate and complex web of infrastructure. It is to experience the history of that place in a very real and personal way. It is to have a better understanding of what that place is. Where that place is. Who that place is. Why that place is. To walk across a place is to truly know a place,” said Gates.
Lake said he also mentioned that the Every Single Street movement is a good way to resist quarantine. It gets people outside during a pandemic and gives them a purpose.
“It forces you to slow down a bit,” said Lake, and she’s not just referring to the days when she ran on the ice-covered streets of Holyoke!
The 35-year-old ran pretty much every day she was in Holyoke this month, and some days were certainly warmer than others. “I regretted doing this in December!” Lake said with a laugh.
She used a map from the phone book to plan her route each day, setting out from her house to run about 2-3 miles at a time with some walking sprinkled in here and there.
Her strategy varied day by day. Sometimes she aimed to mark off a chunk of town, then she would pick an end point to shoot for, and other times she calculated the most effecient loop to hit places in Holyoke she hadn’t made it to yet.
In all, Lake logged just over 30 miles in her trek down each street in the city limits of Holyoke.
“You don’t have to be a runner to do it,” she said, encouraging others that they can jog small portions, walk or even ride a bike.
Lake came to appreciate the outgoing people who passed by, the way people dutifully shoveled their sidewalks after it snowed, the lack of litter on the ground and the (mostly) friendly pets she met along the way.
She liked how she could still see sunsets from inside city limits, and the wide variety of yard signs — both welcoming and nonwelcoming — were a source of entertainment.
Lake explored neighborhoods she didn’t know existed, found some lovely homes tucked away by the golf course, discovered new apartment buildings and came to realize just what is and isn’t in the city limits.
She witnessed many outdoor family gatherings, kids playing with new Christmas gifts and even a man using his car mirror to trim his eyebrows.
“It was really great to see the different cultures,” said Lake, noting that for years to come she will vividly remember the half-American, half-Mexican flags sewn together, a picture of what it’s like to meld two cultures together in one community.
Along the way, Lake documented her experiences with pictures on her Instagram page. Now that she’s marked Holyoke off her list, she is intrigued to see what it would be like to do the Every Single Street project in Denver — or a small part of it, anyway.
Every person is going to have a different reason for running down every single street in their town, but here are some reasons why Gates is recommending it to others:
1. It’s a sneaky way to train. You become so focused on this weird project that you don’t ever really realize you’re training.
2. It’s a great way to get to know your home. Even if you think you know it, you will always discover new things.
3. This project creates a pathway toward empathy. Knowing how other people live is a firsthand (foot) approach toward popping the bubbles we live in and appreciating our differences for what they are.
4. It exercises your brain as well as your body.
5. It’s right out your front door. And your back door.
For more information on how you can be part of the Every Single Street movement, visit everysinglestreet.com.