I left Flagstaff last month, and after only a few days I already missed it.

It’s a feeling I was used to as I traveled around the world for races. The moment I got on the plane, I wanted to stay home. Of course, I always missed my wife and kids when I left, but seeing the Peaks as I drove back from Phoenix or looking at the surrounding trails from the plane always gave me the sense of returning to where I should be.

Now that has ended.

I lived in Flagstaff for 10 years because it was the perfect place for pursuing my professional running career. The trails, dirt roads, hills and the running community all helped me to make my decision to move to Flagstaff. These factors are what draw other runners to town, and they are what make it so hard to leave.

I felt at home the moment I moved to Flagstaff. It also helped that I met my future wife, Julie, just a few weeks after arriving. The day after we met, she and I were up on the mountain watching our friends run Soulstice, then grabbing a drink at Pay ‘n’ Take afterward.

Julie was a runner on the Northern Arizona University team and felt the same draw to the town as I did. She continued her studies at NAU, getting her doctorate there as it allowed her to stay up the mountain. Just a few years later, we welcomed our daughter Isla and son Sebastian to the world and we never envisioned leaving.

Flagstaff was just the right size for us and we had a tight-knit community of friends who we now call family. We only ever briefly talked about leaving town, deciding we would only do so if I ever got a job in running shoe development.

I got that call a few months ago; we both knew we had to jump on it. My three dream jobs have been to be a professional runner (check), a coach (check) and a shoe developer (just checking that box now), so I know how fortunate I have been.

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The only downside to that final checked box is that I had to move away from Flagstaff and relocate to Portland, Ore. Thankfully, Portland has that same Flagstaff vibe. I’ve already gotten right into the running scene here, joining a new club and hitting the trails whenever I can.

My running career is over, but I’ll always keep running hard. Running still makes me just as happy now as it did when I was a little boy and when I was lining up on the start line at the Olympics.

I moved to Flagstaff to run, and I’ve left so I can help runners. I can’t express how much we’ll miss the town and everyone we met there. My heart will always remain in Flagstaff.

Andrew Lemoncello is an Olympian, four-time United Kingdom champion and 22-time Scottish champion over varying distances. He’s the new materials manager for Adidas Running in Portland, and continues to run twice a day and coach athletes all over the world with McMillan Running Company.

Myles Schrag is coordinating editor for High Country Running. He invites submissions on any aspect of the local running scene, as well as submissions for the “To Imogene: A Flagstaff Love Letter” book project. He can be reached at myles.schrag@adinapublishing.com. This is the second in a summer series written by elite runners who are bidding farewell to Flagstaff.


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