If you read my last post, you know that my confidence in my running ability has dipped into single digits. For this week’s scheduled 9 miler, I knew I would have to draw on resources beyond my own and play some serious mind games to get it done.
My man is racing this weekend (dirt bike, not foot) in Pontotoc, Mississippi – about 4 1/2 hours north of our home. Having been in the area a great deal over the last years for work (and play), we knew that Trace State Park is a beautiful, serene area to get my run on. In fact, we stayed here when I was training for NYC in 2011, and I did a long run here then, as well. I even remember I had to do a 13 miler that day, and the hills and valleys the park provided were just the ticket. Would it be again?
After much prayer, some whining (okay, a LOT of whining), some deep breathing (exasperated sighs count, right?), and a new determination, I made my plan.
I would hit the trails in the park with no direction except to go where the spirit moved me. And, each mile, I would purposely, consciously, and with direct intention STAY IN THAT MILE. I wouldn’t think about how many more miles I had to go. I would ignore the obscenities my hamstring screamed at me. I would pay no attention to Lady Garmin’s discouraging data screens that carefully calculate my pace and distance. I would walk when I needed and run when I could.
I would carefully place one foot in front of the other until I reached the end. I would find joy in each mile, and be humbly thankful for it.
Guess what? It worked. Running trails is a great way to stay in the mile, as you have to be very aware of where you place your feet. Especially prone-to-roll-an-ankle me. Also, many of the inclines were so steep, there was no way to run up or down them, so I didn’t feel a bit guilty for walking.
Trust me. The image doesn’t do justice to the steepness of that hill.
Mile one was all about the sunrise.
The trailhead was about a mile from our camp, so the first mile was on the road. The stillness of the cool, fall morning and the deer crossing the road ahead of me pulled me to the trail with more anticipation than I’ve felt in a long time.
Mile two found me doing The Dance of the Spider Webs. All trail runners (and cyclists, and ORV riders) know that the first one down the trail gets to clear out all the spider webs. I’m just thankful I was alone, as my dance skills are somewhat rusty. On the plus side, I brought enough cobwebs back to camp with me that I could make a quilt. If I was so inclined. Which I’m not.
Miles three and four were filled with deer sightings. I ran into a clearing and surprised an entire herd (do deer travel in herds, like cows?). They lifted their heads as one to see what lead footed creature dared to come crashing into their space, saw it was just me (who was just as surprised to see them), then flicked their tails at me in disgust and turned, again as one, and gracefully melted into the forest. I stood still for a moment, watching after them with envy. Their movements are so elegantly beautiful, and mine are so clumsy. Still, I was humbly grateful for the moment, and reminded that I don’t HAVE to run, I GET to run. I never want to take that for granted.
Miles five and six brought more deer, squirrel, bunny, and spider sightings. They also brought renewed complaints from my potty mouthed hamstring, so I slowed down even more. By the end of mile six, I headed back to the trailhead to finish up on the road.
Miles seven, eight, and nine passed more quickly than I had a right to expect and I stumbled back to the campsite where cold chocolate milk and a banana awaited me. My awesome man helped me stretch my aching, grouchy legs, and I headed for the shower.
After almost three weeks of craptastic runs, and the realization that the upcoming race is probably going to be my slowest one so far, today was much needed. Non runners may wonder what keeps us running when it hurts so much and seems to give nothing back for the amount of effort we put in. I could easily write a thousand word essay on why I run, but I can also boil it down very succintly.
This. This day, this run, this feeling. The joy of new discoveries, the aching of my muscles that makes me aware of how lucky I am to be able to run, and the way chocolate milk and a cool shower taste and feel at the end of nine miles of trails.
The exquisite relief of making it to the end and realizing you had it in you, after all.
She believed she could, so she did.
And, she found joy in every mile.