Today I spent several hours running out on the trail in solitude. Not that unusual of an occurrence if you know me. A majority of the miles I log are solo. Don’t get me wrong, I love the camaraderie of my training buddies or other people I run with, but I cherish the miles I cover by myself. Sometimes I run with my iPod and use music to propel me down the trail or sometimes I run without a sound but the wind whistling in my ears. Either way I am good.
Today was entirely different than yesterday. I always answer the question “What was your favorite run?” this way: “The one I do tomorrow!” The last 2 days typified this. Yesterday it was 79 degrees when I started my run at 3:00 pm. I ran the trail hard with AC/DC reverberating in my head and used my interval timers to keep me on a tight schedule. It was a great run in its own right.
This afternoon I started my run at exactly the same time as the day before: 3:00 pm. The difference today was stark. The thermometer in my car read 29 degrees as I was about to step out of the car. Winds were out of the north at 20-25 mph with gusts over 40. The wind chill was around 15 degrees and it was snowing.
Today it was a no-brainer to go sans-tunes and get as close to the elements as I could. No iPod. I did not even wear a watch. I took no performance gels to keep my tank topped off to maximize my effort and I left my camelback in the car. It was me against the elements for almost 3 hours. I had the entire 100-acre park to myself. Yesterday I ran with wings on my feet. Today was not about setting a PR on my favorite trail. It was about the snow blowing in the wind-swept grass and the howling wind in the trees.
Usually I see lots of wildlife. On this day even the critters were hunkered down. Most days I hear a chorus of squirrels overhead as I glide by on the trail. Birds generally abound. Today I saw a single red bird and one solitary hawk soaring across the treetops. It was just me against the elements. The only constant was the gusting winds, the swirling snow, and the crunching of my own feet down the twisty trails. The scenes were serene. I would normally say that I wished I had my SLR camera with me, but the images and moments of today are firmly imprinted on me. My favorite run will still be the one I run tomorrow, but today was transcendent.
I have learned a lot about adversity this past year on the trail. Honesty and character is what you do when no one else is watching. I have run on moon-less nights in the rain when no one would have known or blamed me if I had cut a run short by a few miles or a few steps. It was not until I pushed myself so completely beyond my perceived limitations that I would know exactly how I would respond when it was time to answer the bell and keep moving forward. I even had to fail GLORIOUSLY in my first 100-miler (see GLORIOUS failure blog from a few weeks ago) to truly know the answer to that question. Failure and redemption. Pain and perseverance. Running imitates life and such has been my year on the trail. Today was no different.
This is the year I truly chose to embrace the obstacles in my life. It did not always mean I was successful, but I can say that I have no regrets and have been true to myself. I still have many areas of my life I want to improve and many more successes I will accomplish. I have become very comfortable and confident in my own skin and I know that I will stay the course and enjoy the journey.
I see many people in this life who cannot get out of their own way to achieve the happiness and success they seek in their life. They focus on the negative, pile up their troubles, and moan about the hand life has dealt them. What they do not realize it that they have also been given free will. There is always someone who is dealing with more difficult circumstances. “This too shall pass…” We always have a choice to move forward and tackle the adversity in our lives and the self-imposed limitations we place on ourselves.
George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life” is the classic troubled character who questions his own worth in the world. I watched it twice tonight, back-to-back. I cherish watching this movie each year and it is one of my all time favorites. Most people do not know it was originally released in the SUMMER of 1946 and was not widely acclaimed. The quintessential story of a man who is discouraged with his perceived lack of success and significance in life. Every year it renews my hope in myself and the importance we each can have in other’s lives. Maybe I should watch it in the summer as well.
The trail has given me many hours of sound counsel over this past year. This sums it up for me: Run when you can, walk when you have to, and crawl if you must. The key is to keep moving no matter how dark the clouds may be or how high the mountain may seem. Keep moving. Walk through the clouds. It is beautiful on the other side!