On Trail Running

A Northern Flicker I saw flying around our backyard.

Yesterday, for the first time in a long time (read: since last winter), I went trail running. I like running trails, but only after we’ve had our first “killer freeze” and all the snakes have crawled back into their hiding places and can’t get me anymore.

Trail running is a totally different form of discipline. For one thing, I leave my music at home and always make sure I have my I.D. on me. I know I should probably have it on me even just running my neighborhood streets, but I don’t. Maybe I subconsciously think my neighbors will recognize me as that Crazy Running Chick and will call 911 on my behalf.

Trail running is a totally different kind of beast. You have to use every sense that God gave you to stay upright, and the concentration and focus you have to give it is 150 percent. I’ve noticed that whenever I let my mind begin to wander, even for just a second or two, the dirt beneath my feet reminds me that there are roots and loose rocks down there and my mind instantly snaps back to the trail.

It’s a good kind of concentration and focus, however. I totally shut my mind down to all the day’s to-do lists, things I should take care of in the future, the worrying over Joe’s cross country trip to Mt. Shasta, CA. coming up in January, Meghan’s job interview later this afternoon, my mom’s upcoming knee surgery . . . all the little things that wake me up at 2:30 every morning. The only outside stimulus when I’m running deep in the woods that I’m aware of is the occasional birdsong and the rustling leaves as squirrels dash about in the late afternoon glow of the day.

It’s quiet out on the trail, no traffic noises, no highway noises, no dogs barking. Just me and my feet slowly running along the packed dirt and my breathing; every now and then my voice speaking out loud to slow down a little (it’s when I get cocky and start running at my normal pace that I usually trip and fall). I think it’s that isolation that I love the most. The sense of just me out there all by myself with no one else is such a humbling experience. I feel very small, but also very big. Does that make any sense? There’s this magnificent, big beautiful world that I’m a part of, that I’m running through, and it’s just for me. I notice and hear things I wouldn’t have, even if I was hiking the same trail. The focus, the clear mind, the concentrating only on what’s ahead of me in the woods is a gift. I get so caught up in what’s on my calendar, housework, errands, grocery shopping, photography, just all that noise that surrounds me - - - noise that I don’t really even notice anymore because it’s such a part of my life.

I don’t realize the decibel level has gotten out of hand until I run along the trail and the silence of the world brushes against me as soft as a butterfly’s wing, telling me to be peaceful once again.

Santa and me after running at Blowing Springs Mountain Bike Trails.

Santa and me after running at Blowing Springs Mountain Bike Trails.


Daily Therapy

I do five sets of eight push ups every morning after breakfast, then run 5-6 miles after Joe leaves for school at 8:00. Once or twice a week I'll throw in a 7-8 mile run to help with distance and will gradually tack on more miles as the year progresses, culminating in me running my ninth half-marathon in the fall. 

It's the best form of therapy and self-help around and I've been doing it for over 34 years now.

(Settings: Nikon D750, 50mm, ISO 100, f/2.2, 1/800 sec. Flash was set on the floor directly in front of my camera, power set at 1/16 power and was modified by Joe McNally Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 Plus. I was going for the dark and gritty look here, and wound up doing 45 minutes worth of planks trying to get this shot. 😜)