It’s been one year and 700 miles since I started running. Thinking back, I realize I’ve had some amazing memories and experiences from this last year. I’ve been completely lost in the woods where I’ve found my way only to get lost again moments later. I’ve enjoyed the complete solitude of the afterlife of a wildfire ravaged forest. The burnt pine smell was still present a year after the last fire was put out.
I’ve ran a trail with no one for miles and I’ve also shared that same trail with 80 other people during a race. I’ve witnessed the beauty of the fully stretched wingspan of an owl flying tree branch to tree branch as I was coming down a trail. If I was three seconds quicker, I would’ve gotten run over by a deer traveling at full speed who crossed the path just ahead of me. I’ve interrupted another deer casually eating along my path who kindly modeled for my camera lens. On another run, I swear I was being tracked by an animal. There’s something enlightening and exhilarating about being there for these rare chance encounters.
In the past year, I’ve lived in two different cities in distinctly different parts of the country. My runs have taken me through many parts of these cities and given me varied experiences. There was an evening run where I had to dodge bats as they left their hiding spots in search of food. Some morning runs take me by a zoo where you can hear the elephants, see the giraffes and almost pet the bison…if you dare. I’ve had runs that take me by architectural gems by Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan and H.H. Richardson. I’ve seen little houses, big houses, modern houses and old houses. Houses being built and others in the last stages of their lives. Only a short distance from where I live, there are even houses built overlapping each other with one roof ending over the roof of the house next to it. I’ve run through dangerous neighborhoods, under highway overpasses, along train tracks and through industrial wastelands. Looking back, there wasn’t any indication that I would see all these things.
The seasons and weather have tested my will to run over the past year. Running is hard enough, but throw in the elements of nature and it’s a totally different game. The question of “why am I doing this” will pop up a whole lot more when the roads are covered in snow or it hasn’t rained in weeks and the dust just sticks to the perspiration caused by the searing temps. My first run in below freezing temps, I was actually too hot. Not sure how you can feel too warm in running tights when it’s below freezing, but it’s happened to me. Then on the other hand, you become completely comfortable when you are drenched with sweat from dealing with the triple-digit temperatures. I’ve ran in full-on droughts, snowstorms and downpours that were so heavy that the trail turned to mud. There’s something life affirming about being absolutely filthy.
The pace of running has allowed me to see details of my world that are blurred by the speed of a car and even a bicycle. It’s put me in places that I wouldn’t expect and revealed to me moments that only my eyes were able to witness. Maybe I’m reading too far into it, but once I started seeing these moments, I swear they become easier to recognize. After all this, I don’t think of myself as a runner…well maybe a runner with explorer tendencies.