Last week I hit South Mountain four times. I said I needed more trail time and I meant it.
The trail is approximately a four mile loop and I tried to run it better and faster on each visit. Except for the last time. By then I was tired, beat up. I needed to go slowly and enjoy myself. I needed to sit on a rock every so often and stop to soak it all in. I feel so fortunate to have this little piece of paradise only minutes from my house. When I’m feeling a bit stronger I hope to be able to run there and back from home.
I returned Thursday afternoon for the first time this week. I really thought it was going to be a good run but instead, I felt tired and was forced to take it slowly.
I didn’t mind.
A million thoughts rushed through my head and I wished I had a voice recorder to capture my mental meanderings. In my head I eloquently rattled off analogies about life and nature, I fashioned an entire story while out there on the trail. And I left it there.
What I took away with me is the fact that I have really missed that hour or two of alone time, away from everything else, just me and my thoughts. It doesn’t matter if I do something grand with my thoughts and ideas, or let them dissolve into the time that has passed. What does matter, though, is that I finish up feeling calm and at peace.
The way it should be.
Last Thursday’s run up at South Mountain left me feeling a little unsatisfied. Sorry, Chris. I didn’t mind walking it in with you for the last quarter of the run but my legs just wanted to GO! Friday left me feeling frustrated and Saturday I found myself busy for the majority of the day, so no working out for me.
I asked Muffin to join me for a run on the mountain Sunday morning. It felt like ages since we last ran together and I was ready to rock it. I rocked it all right. I rocked it so hard on the last leg heading down the mountain, sailing over rocks and picking up speed as I descended past the boulder field … and then it happened. I gracefully navigated some large rocks only to trip over a tree stub which blended into the trail and stood about two inches straight up. My toe caught the one-inch diameter protrusion and down I went. I actually slid to a stop.
I popped up, gave myself a quick once over, picking a leaf fragment or two off my elbow. No gushing blood, that was a good sign. On we went. A tiny bit slower and not in any serious pain, I sidestepped a frog who had wandered from the frog pond which is hidden amongst the woods to which no path leads, joking in my head about making a meal of it and grossing my kids out by eating frog legs. (As if!)
Once we finished the run I took a better look at the damages I had sustained. Not bad, really. “It’s just a flesh wound,” ran through my head as I decided the fall had only caused two minor brush burns. Later, my leg would begin to bruise, turning a lovely shade of purple.
I’ll tell you what that fall REALLY means. It means I’m back in it! I fell and aside from the two little scrapes, it didn’t hurt. My back did not send a stop-in-my-tracks shooting pain throughout my body as would have happened a few months earlier. I’m back in the game and ready for more.
So ready, in fact, that I hit the trails, again, the very next day. This time running solo, I timed myself. It took forty-seven minutes to loop the trails, not much slower than the amount of time it used to take me to run the same exact loop. I’m feeling stronger and getting my trail legs back.
I have got to get back to my cross-training. Running 2-3 times a week is not easy if you aren’t doing some other form of exercise on the non-running days.
Today I procrastinated like a mad woman. There was something more important to be doing all morning long, or so I thought. When I finally gave myself a good kick in the butt it was already 80 degrees outside and my run felt even harder because of it. There was walking involved, a stop at the water fountain and yes, some running. Every single step felt difficult. Labored. I kept wondering whether or not an earlier run would have felt any better. There were many moments along the way when I considered my form, wondering if I looked as miserable as I felt to those I passed on the path. This selfie (below) proves that, yes, I did look miserable.
And then something happened. Instead of berating myself for not being the runner I was three years ago, instead of comparing the current me to the old me, I decided to be grateful. Grateful to be able to run again after a back surgery and worries over whether or not I would ever be able to play with my children again, much less run. Grateful that I am finally able to put one foot in front or the other in a forward motion. Grateful that I am nearly pain-free after more than two years doped up on pills and pouring alcohol down my throat in order to deal with the pain levels.
I may not be there yet, but there is no reason in the world why I won’t be where I want to be in another year or so.
And then something happened … I felt happier. And my run ended much better than the way it had begun.