I wanted them to be magical birthday miles. They were not. But, I ran them anyways. I stayed committed to them, took them slowly and tried to shake off too little sleep and too much birthday wine from the night before. I wanted to reach the top.
I ran up a mountain on my birthday. By choice. I realize this is a not so humble brag, but I take pride in this fact. 32 was the first year I did a true mountain trail run. The first time I ran up Stone Creek I was afraid. I’d never attempted something like that as a runner. Sure I’d run some hills, some steeper roads with continuous ascent, but never 5 miles of consistent and real elevation gain. Would I have to walk? Would it be difficult? Could I do it? Why did I sign up for a race that I had no experience in? It was only four short weeks a way the first time I attempted anything like the 24 mile mountain race I had voluntarily signed up for. That first trail run was unexpected. It was magic. The trail was incredibly runnable. I liked the continuous ascent. I found bursts of energy in the flatter patches. The lightness of running that feels like flying came over me. So this is trail running, I thought. I was made for this. I was meant to be here on this mountain range. I will never forget that run. I will never forget what I found at the top. Literally, it is one of the most beautiful places I have been in all of my adventures and it’s maybe one of the views I most earned. Not because I ran up a mountain, though there is that too, but because of all the things I had done to be in that spot. It was a series of life choices and doing of the hard things and so much more that brought me to the top of Stone Creek early that Sunday morning, carried only by my own two feet to stand alone and see the world stretch out before me.
Standing at the top of one of my favorite places in the world, I looked out at a view I had not seen since July 1st. It was different. Quieter. Browner. Golden. Was there still snow? There was smoke. But I could still make out the mountains. My imperfect body, one that had struggled with injuries, had carried me up those miles and those few thousand feet on August 19th. It was not a perfect run. Far from it. But I showed up. I did it anyways.
“I am imperfect and that’s ok.”
Those words filled my head as I paused to take in the mountains and valleys and all the life that filled my vision in every direction. For a brief moment I believed them. I stopped measuring myself and every move I’d made that day, that week, that year. My heart really really felt them. Tears dared to fill my eyes. Life felt too good, like it was offering too much wonder and joy and peace for one human to feel. And with the quickness that it came, levity retreated. But I remember how it felt. It’s the same lightness I can find in running. It doesn’t always come around as much as I want but I think I can make it come around more. It’s a lightness that isn’t exclusive to being fit and following a training plan perfectly. Instead, it’s created from the practice of running happy, fully and in the moment. And we could easily swap living with the word running. Because that lightness, it’s the lightness I’m chasing with my life. The kind that makes you want to lay down in the dirt and feel all the little pieces of sand, clay and rock and touch with as much of your living body as much of the living world as possible.