Every day of the week of every month in the year. Every season and every temperature. Covered by snow, frozen by ice, sloppy with mud, and overgrown. On days I feel fast and fit, they challenge and push me to be better than before. When I’m tired, or just out of shape and sluggish, the tight turns and hills are the best training partner.
These are the trails I always talk about.
I’ve prayed more in the shade of the trees than any other holy place. More tears have been shed, arguments remembered, and feelings of fear than any bad news, fight, or event could cause. Sometimes I talk out loud to myself, a little embarrassed at first that someone will hear me, that is, before I remember where I am … (although I’m sure there are some hikers out there who think that I’m crazy). The trails and I have shared more inside jokes, heart-to-hearts, angry rants, and frustrated questionings than I have with even my closest friends. They make me happy, and help me to relax, vent, etc … Every. Single. Time.
These trails are my best friend.
Over the years, the trails have changed. From old growth trees cleared by logging, various fallen trees to climb over, puddles that are shin deep (Sidenote: I took off my shoes and socks to wade through this one, haha!), and even the addition of larger pebble gravel over the old … the changing of the trails is often random, swift, and without my approval. I’m not happy about the new lack of shade, changing of the terrain, or anything different than what I’ve known before. Call me nostalgic, but I cherish the memories of my trails from the beginning, as I knew them: covered in roots, single-track, incredibly green and lush, quiet, shaded, and a sanctuary that moves with you for miles.
These trails are my home.
I can run forever without seeing another person. Sure there are cougars, geese, snakes, bunnies and the like, but most of the time it is just you and the path you’re on. There is something special about being alone out in nature. Those days when you don’t want to be seen, and even the streets of a small town seem too busy, the single-track loops are always open and waiting. So many times have I reached a point in my run where I have to stop, not because I am too tired to go on, but because where I am is so beautiful and still – where you can see trees reaching endlessly, untouched and perfect wilderness, in every sense of the word.
These trails are my definition of beauty.
I’ve never listened to music while running – how else would I hear nearby hikers, birds, the squish of wet and muddy shoes, or the rustling of brush as I run by? Instead, my mind is free, to be free. Instead I’ve written blog posts, scholarships, letters, poems, and rehearsed conversations. Talked to myself, or really, to my trails.
No, they’re not lawfully mine. I don’t own the land or the trails in any legal way. And of course I want others to use the trails and experience them, I just choose to be selfish and call them my own because the personal experiences I’ve had over the past 6 years as a runner, the trails have become so important in my own life. Truly. I’ve given each route a name based on my teammates and own crazy mind, I know the exact times it takes for me to run a route, I think about them when bored of running pavement loops and out and backs, when I run what other people consider “trails,” and on any day that my shoes look too clean – always having the memories of running the trails on rainy, perfectly gray, and utterly miserable Washington days.
These trails never get boring, no matter how many times I run them. The same way with my body, there is always some way for me to become stronger over the hills and across tricky footing.
Cokeley loop, C500, X-Line, White Gate, “Over the Hill,” Ridge, Campfire loop, Watershed, “that run with the yellow gate, incredible view, and the extra hill I like to add,” West Fork – that’s where you’ll find me.
These trails are my training partner, sanctuary, best friend, my home.
These are my trails.
(And yes, I ran on them today.)
Until next time,