Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The beginning of the end

When I started this blog, my intentions were to write about my trail running experiences. I also intended to blog a lot more often. Today's blog has everything to do with running and trail running and its relevence to my life. Today was the first empowering run I have had since that day. December 7, 2008 was the day I felt like a battleship sitting in Pearl Harbor, protecting the home front. The bullets peirced my skin and the bombs wounded me. The wounds are deep and the flesh is exposed. Unfortunately this is just the beginning of the end. What end? I don't know that yet. In retrospect, I should have seen the coming of the battle I was about to enter. The red flags were there but I could not see them. Maybe it was the fog or the sun or my own color blindness that clouded my vision.

I have continued to run since that day but it just hasn't felt good. Running in and of itself is empowering and even though my runs haven't been the best, they have been important in helping to build my strength. I have not run with the Kansas City Trail Nerds in quit awhile, even though I long for the trail therapy. Today I ran with my dogs on a winding, dirt, country road. The sun was shining down on me and the cold brisk air was refreshing and invigorating. My thoughts became clearer with what lies ahead for me now. They always do when I run but they get clouded every night.

While I am still pretty new to the trail running, it has analogies similar to life. We start at the trail head and enter the system with great expectations, high hopes and elevated spirits. We begin as a group, sometimes big, sometimes small. The scenery is beautiful and the conversations are great. We know what happens on the trail stays on the trail, most of the time. We exchange thoughts, feelings, bad jokes, good jokes and stupid comments throughout the journey. Before we know it we have run several miles and we begin to feel a bit drained. It is a good thing for Gu or whatever our fortay is that we have conveniently stuck in a pocket. Conversations shift, some people run ahead and some drop off the pace a little but we are all still connected by the trails that curve, loop, weave and fork into the deep dark woods and grassy terrain.

The trails are filled with rocks, ruts, roots, snakes, other animals and just about anything you could imagine. Somewhere along the way we stumble. Sometimes we fall flat on our faces in complete and utter disbelief and other times we can catch ourselves or someone else if we are close enough. Learning to fall becomes important but more important is getting up after the fall. We realize it is vital to our being to risk falling everytime we strap up the tenny runners than not to run at all. Trail running is addictive. We connect to the freedom to get away from life as we know it. There is a comraderie that exists on the trails and a feeling inside that is undescribeable. There is an unexplainable closeness to otherwise strangers in our lives.

The seasons change and with each change comes new obstacles and barriers to trail running. The trails can and do become muddy, leaf covered, snow covered, icey slick, dry dirt hard and loose rocks shift regularly under our feet. Sometimes broken branches and fallen trees block the trail. However, we learn how to deal with the changes and the barriers through our experienced friends' advice and through our own misfortunes and successes.

If I think I can't do it, I won't, but I know if I believe I can the group will help me keep going. Oh I know I have to do the work and I wouldn't want it any other way. Sometimes when we run we encounter hills and valleys. The hills make us strong and somehow we find the strength to keep climbing. The valleys provide us with energy to conquer whatever lies ahead. There are times we have to slow down to a walk in order to recover from some unknown physical or mental barrier we have encountered. Our friends along the way help us through it and we in turn help them when they are struggling. We all encounter the barriers but we can all be thankful we don't all encounter barriers at the same time. There are also times along the way we must pause a moment to see, hear, feel, smell and taste. We ask ourselves is this as good as it gets? (Thanks Kimberly Hoffman for that insight.)

Sometimes we put ourselves to the test and run in the competitions. We test our strength, our endurance and our mental toughness. Sometimes we win. What do we win? That is completely up to the individual goals we each have for the race. Some or us just want to finish. Some of us want to run a PR for the course. Some of us want to run farther than we have ever run before. We all run to be a part of something bigger and better than our everyday lives give us. And, of course, there are the ones who really win the races. Congrats to them and their achievements. There are some of us who don't always finish but we are still winners as long as we gain something in the experience. We gain strength and insight to return to run a more glorious race next time. Somewhere we know we encountered a barrier that kept us from finishing. We all have to find ways to get over or around or through the barriers. Otherwise we die a little inside. Our goals are all different and they change for each event and throughout our lives, but as long as we keep those goals in sight and in our hearts, we will succeed.

Soon we finish the run and look forward to the return of the next run. We come out of the woods and into the wide openess of the trail head where we began. Sometimes we part ways until next time and other times we go hangout for more time together. The experience is rewarding and powerful even if we struggled through it. It is the struggles that make us stronger and we know in our heart that it will feel better next time and that is why we return. If the run felt great, well, then of course you know why we return next time.

I used to run to be the best and the fastest. I always failed. Now I run for pure enjoyment and I always win. I love my new found trail running frends, the nerds, and soon my wounds will be healing from the attack and the battleship will be stronger than ever. I am thankful that at least I didn't sink to the bottom. All my pieces are floating around in the water, but my core is still in tact. While this post today is about my new found love of trail running and my current crisis and obstacles, I think you could agree that trail running relates to life. Someday, when I am ready, I will reveal what wounded me but for now I have to build my strength and keep on runnin'.

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