I’m no different than anybody else: over scheduled, over worked, and over caffeinated. There simply are not enough hours in the day to get through the ever-expanding to-do list, and I spend as much time adding to the list as I do crossing things off the list. The demands come from all directions: work, kids, spouse, family (if you are caring for an aging parent as I do, for example), etc. I’ll admit that it’s sometimes just overwhelming and I struggle to keep from losing it. And that’s why trail running is my “mother’s little helper” – to keep me sane, happy, and able to manage the daily onslaught of demands.
While I’ve run plenty of miles on the road, the trail is my passion. Pushing myself physically, while I enjoy the beauty of nature is liberating for the mind, body and soul. Maybe it’s the solitude or sounds of the wildlife & wind that allows the noise in my head to quiet - so that I can make sense of previously impossible problems. Maybe it’s the beauty of nature that gives perspective and allows me to find joy in simple things – and reminds me to appreciate those gifts as a welcomed break from routine. It's my sacred time for quiet reflection and meditation.
It's also a time to let my inner child out to play. Do you member how much fun you had as a child running around outside; splashing in the mud puddles, tramping through the new-fallen snow, getting soaked in a warm summer rain - or just running over the hill to see what you could find on the other side? A good trail run can take us back to those wonderful, carefree times in our lives.
Have you ever experienced firsthand amazing wildlife encounters; like a bird of prey diving from the sky to embody power and grace, a pair of glowing yellow eyes piercing illuminated by your headlamp which pierce the darkness and leave you feeling vulnerable, or have something bound, scamper, or slither across your path just to remind you that you are but a visitor here in their world?
Finally, have you been able to appreciate the power of nature and have it help to ground you spiritually; feeling how small you (and your problems) really are as you gaze across from a mountain top, feeling powerless in the midst of a raging storm, or feeling your heart swell at the majesty of colors from the days first or last light crossing the sky? It is moments like those for which I feel a deep spirituality and truly blessed for reasons most people may never consider.
The trail – just like life – is never smooth. A mountainous trail littered with rocks, mud and roots, can be seen as obstacles to test your will and mettle. But that’s choosing to view it through only one lens. I try to view the trail through the other lens for its power to make me feel fulfilled and thankful because the joy is in the journey.
I see trail running as an analogy for life and believe that it helps me be a better, more grounded person among the other important aspects of my life. I urge you to give trail running a try. You may find regular visits to the "dirt church" to be incredibly rewarding in many ways.
Happy trails, my friends!