The Trail Runner Diaries N°3
"The splendors of trail running have as much to do with the relative remoteness of the wooded, leaf-covered trails I weave through, as it has to do with its unexplainable ability in transcending oneself. Running through parks, meadows, forests, and mountains allows our senses to roam free and clears our mind of the minor and major stresses of everyday life. In my solitude, as my feet spring across the wooden planks of a boardwalk, I am left with time to think, process, and engage in introspection, in order to experience self-awareness and make sense of reality. Running has taught me not just about life in general, but about myself as an individual, and it has opened countless windows of opportunity I have been eager to accept. Running has unmasked my limitless potential, given me a sense of invincibility, and the belief that with the right amount of effort and perseverance, and especially a strong mindset, anything is possible. I run to get the best out of myself, to prove to myself my capabilities and power, and to inspire others to achieve their own dreams in life. As I become lost among the trees towering overhead, I am happy to say I have reached a better understanding of why running isn't just a physical passion for me, but a passion encapsulating my entire being.
- Patrick Caron
I run to find the in-betweens. I run to fly, to soar, to feel weightless, immaterial. I run to feel my feet on the ground, feel the earth rise up to meet me with each long stride. I run to feel strong and powerful, capable of pushing myself faster, farther, harder than each time before. I run to feel week; humbled by the endless trail and space the earth provides and my own relative insignificance. I run to put myself and my own body in perspective, lining up at a starting line racing only wind, dirt, and water. I run to feel the wind in my hair, to feel frost on my eyelashes, and smooth rocks beneath my feet. I run to feel nothing, but to fade into the comfortable obscurity of a wooded trail. I run for community, to connect with others who seek fast fellowship on the trails and roads. I run to be alone, to throw myself forward into the silence of earliest mornings, and late nights with only the sound of my feet and the faintest shadow. I run to go places, to travel swiftly and efficiently from place to place. I run to wander, to go nowhere and everywhere with only the strength of my own two feet. I run to think, to ponder myriad questions with the utmost clarity that only running can grant. I run to clear my mind, to obliterate the thoughts that crowd and clutter my mind. It is in this space that I find myself- the crossroads of strength and weakness, communion and solitude, thought and emptiness. That is why I run.
I run to remind myself that I can be happy today. More bluntly, I run to kick in the teeth of the unfriendly notion that I need to sacrifice today for the perfect tomorrow. There’s a popular trail where I live called the “Big Baylor Bitch,” and every time I feel like I’m smoldering under the weight of everyday stress, I lace up my shoes, and I run the Bitch. Once I leave the trail head, any frustrations about life are burned away like a flame held to a safety pin purifying it for the task at hand. My task is a grueling one: 3.2 miles and 1,600ft of gain via washed out single-track bordered by lineup of some of the most unfriendly desert fauna around. As I make my way through the first few arroyos my run begins to crackle with a fiery lust, and my focus shifts to my form: proper posture, check; hands brushing gently against my sides, check; preferred breathing rhythm, check. Once I green-light my system, I sink into the type-two fun and grimace at the taste of sweat and sunscreen bleeding down my face and into the corner of my mouth. Nevertheless, as I near the top, my mind begins to roar like a supercharged steam engine ablaze with excitement: Did I push hard enough at the start to PR today? I swat the idea away, and I push my hardest--heart beat is soaring out of the 180s now and my breathing is drum-rolling—but as I eye the bald patch designating the top, I go all in and sprint the final 50m. My mind screams “Yes!” as I force myself to remain upright sucking in gulps of glorious mountain air! After winning this moment and feeling the glory of a successful climb, I plunge back down the same trail I just came up. Now, with a shoulder-width smile stretched across my face, I dance down the more technical parts, touching my forefoot gently atop a pointed boulder, before dropping my body three feet onto the hard-packed trail. I twist my torso 90° to dodge an overgrown acacia bush, and quick step a few paces ahead of a patch of melon-sized rocks before jumping up to quickly place my foot on the side of another boulder and calculatedly push off in the direction of the bending path. As I turn, a stretch of smooth trail appears with about 30 feet of naked hard-pack, I savor a few upward glances at the surrounding peaks without breaking stride, and these picturesque seconds tickle me with joy. Looking down at my watch, I calculate another two miles to the car, and I couldn't be happier.
I run to disconnect from the chaos of this place and be transported somewhere else. To be removed from the speed and pace of everyday life. I run to stop the Facebook posts, to miss the tweets, ignore the Instagram likes, and let the unread email messages pile up. Because for those moments when I run I am connected to a different world. A world where Wi-Fi and data packets fail to matter but foot falls and gel packets do. A world where I hop over rocks instead of sitting in traffic. A world where I avoid standing in line and chose to follow the contours of the trail wherever it may take me. This world has no airports so there is no waiting for takeoff or checking your bags. You depart and return on your own schedule. This place is dirtier than my regular world. The outsoles of my shoes seem to know this and hide a little debris in them to remind me of my travels and my need to go back. There is no TV here but the views are wildly entertaining. Music is replaced by the sounds of wind, birds, squishing of mud, and the rustling of leaves. This is a world where everything is boiled down to the simplest of forms. To thrive here I only need movement, water, and a few calories. This is why I run.