The other day I was scheduled for a long run, the longest of this training season so far, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. I’m up at the lake and as beautiful as it is up here, there are few quiet shaded roads that go for miles and miles. Not to mention that there’s nothing that remotely resembles flat. It is, after all, the Adirondack Mountains.
After plenty of procrastinating, I set out and cobbled together several miles on some of my favorite roads and then resigned myself to running the second half on Route 30, a major road traversed by logging trucks, RVs and motorcycles. A little more than a mile on Rt 30, I saw the entrance to a park where we’ve cross-country skied in the winter. I trotted in, worked my way past the many campsites and found the snowmobile trail. The sign, with an arrow and bright orange trail marker, told me that the trail ended near a familiar trailhead. Running the mileage calculations, I figured that the trail, plus the run home from the trailhead, would get me to my goal.
I didn’t give a second thought to embarking on the trail because I knew that if it seemed dicey, I could simply turn around after a mile or two and complete my run as planned. Once I’d gone beyond the two miles and I was committed to completing the trail to its endpoint, I admit to feeling a bit nervous to be running on an unfamiliar trail with no phone and no one aware of my location. While that’s not the safe way to go — everyone knows that the first rule of hiking alone is to let someone know where you’ll be and when you plan to return — the risk was small (weather forecast was good, the route was short). After skimming the nervousness off the top, waiting like a kid on Christmas morning, I found exhilaration, bringing to mind that Eleanor Roosevelt quote about doing things that scare us.
Right away, I realized is that running on a new trail is tricky – at least for me. While keeping my eyes on the trail to avoid rocks and logs, I wasn’t keeping my head up to watch for trail markers. Several times, I paused, nervous that I’d lost the trail and reminded that I had no phone and no map and then I’d see the bright orange marker and I’d continue on. The mountains must have gotten quite a bit of rain in the days previous. At first, picking my way around the sloppy mess, I worried that I’d reach a part so flooded that I wouldn’t find a way around it, but eventually I was committed come hell or high water. The route was almost all flat, bursting with ferns, and much of it ran alongside a lake. Even in my imagination, I couldn’t have dreamed up a greener, more peaceful environment to complete that long run. At one point, my foot landed in a mucky soup of mud and I found that when I slowed to a walk, deer flies found me delicious, but that was the worst of it. When I landed at the trailhead and the road that I run on most often, I experienced a swell of pride. I’d tried something unexpected and it ended up even better than I’d hoped.
The thing about Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote is that we find magic when we push past our comfort zones and the go beyond the familiar. I don’t believe, when she said that famous sentence, she intended that every day we must climb a mountain or leap off of a 20-foot ledge. I think Eleanor meant that each day we have the opportunity to take one step outside of what we know and possibly find out who we are. What could you do today that scares you a little bit?
(image from buymeposters.com)