Every time I write a post, I write from my heart about what is on my mind at that given time, which explains the lack of a theme or chronological order for the posts in this blog. I also do not not have a schedule for posting; I write when I feel drawn to do so. I do not edit myself, and I just hope that I do the subject matter justice. Tonight, I really hope I am able to convey my thoughts and feelings, because this story is close to my heart.
Despite being athletic, I never was a runner. In fact, I did not enjoy running at all, but in 1999, I began training for my first half-marathon. I decided to do this as one way of dealing with the emotional toll that four years of infertility treatments had taken on me, in addition to coping with being diagnosed with, and successfully treated for, the early stages of cervical cancer late that same year. Running provided me with a physical and mental challenge that distracted me from the other challenges I was facing. Since 1999, I have run six half-marathons and various races of shorter distances, and I still do not like running. I am not a runner; however, I am a trail runner.
I was introduced to trail running about four years ago by my best friend at the time, and while she did not continue to trail run, I fell in love with it the very first time we hit the trails and have stayed with it. This friend is the one whom I turned to for help when I was depressed and anxious and whom I told the truth to about all I had kept hidden away from the rest of the world, and she is the one who helped me get professional help and then days later walked out of my life. So, I find it ironic that she unknowingly introduced me to one of the things that helped me fight my way out of the darkness and to deal with the loss of her friendship.
Trail running is more than a physical experience, although it definitely is an excellent workout. As flighty as this may sound, it is a spiritual and emotional experience for me, and it helped heal my heart and baby soul as much as therapy did. Last summer, when I was in the throes of the depression and anxiety, those miles of trails kept me grounded, literally and figuratively. A friend saw me trail running one day last year and said, “You looked like you were running for your life.”. When I said, “I was”, he laughed. I wasn’t kidding, though.
Trail running truly saved my life and helped me find my happy. The second I would enter the woods, I felt as if I were in a safe sanctuary where I was protected from the painful events and subsequent feelings that plagued me off the trails. I definitely was trying to run away from my problems, if only for a little while, and that respite usually left me feeling like I could face the world for one more day. I would lose myself in my thoughts and my music, and I could let my guard down amidst the flora and the fauna. I could be myself, free of judgment or scrutiny, and I ran solely for my own health and well-being, not for anyone else. Each step was healing, and each mile was its own milestone. The beauty that surrounded me, at times, would overwhelm me to the point that I would begin to cry a mixture of happy and sad tears, and those tears mixed in with the sweat and dirt created a soothing balm for my body, mind, soul, and spirit.
As I ran this evening, a doe and her fawn crossed my path and stopped. All three of us stood still, just taking one another in, before the deer bounded down the hill, leaving me standing there in awe of their grace and beauty, two things I sorely lack when running. There is something about deer that I simply love, and when I see them, I always feel a sense of calm cover over me. They are a reminder that I am safe and loved and part of the universe. I do not consider myself to be particularly religious, and I continue to explore and embrace my spirituality. Sometimes, when I run, I pray, which for me means I converse with the God of my understanding, who differs from the God of my Catholic upbringing in some ways. I do not utilize formal prayers, rather I just silently talk, and then, I listen. I have trouble quieting my mind, but on the trails, I am able to be still, even as I run. Much like the U2 song of the same name, I am running to stand still.
I used to be afraid to trail run alone, for fear of unforeseen dangers lurking in the woods, but now, I choose to run alone, as I have discovered that the unforeseen dangers do not compare to the ones I both see and do not see off of the trails. I no longer run away, as I now run toward the vision for my life that I see so very clearly. These are happy trails indeed, and trail running is just one way I survived. There have been so many people, places, and things that helped me find my way, and if you continue to read the words I write, I will introduce you to them in due time.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story
Wow! Once again!
Your former BFF is tool!!!!! By the way “tool” means JACKASS!
Thanks for sharing that story! I appreciate you and proud to be your friend !!!
Jen, thanks for being there for me every step of the way, as life off the trails is funnier and brighter w/a big deal like you in it. We’ll keep waving our special wave and staying strong. You rock, and I love you for you!
A true beauty to life! Stay strong, continue to run for your life, and keep writing. I love you, cousin!
My cousin, your unconditional love and support mean so much to me, an I am grateful to be able to say we are family. I love you!