Tuesday, October 25, 2011


My wipers swished away the autumn rain droplets from the windshield. I had butterflies in my stomach. I was going for a trail run in a soaking rain at the height of fall on beautiful Vancouver Island. It had been a while. Sure I had the best intentions of running consistently throughout this semester, but like so many before it, I found myself lost in a whirlwind of field schools, thesis writing, and course work. The semester flooded over me so swiftly my only defence was to spend longer days in the books; early mornings and late nights. I was able to squeeze in the occasional 5:00 a.m. run but my running was suffering even though I tried so hard not to let things get out of hand.
I stepped out of my car and the clouds opened up and unleashed their fury on me. I watched as large drops of rain accelerated earthward towards me from their lofty origins in the heavens.
“There they are! The butterflies again”!
My body responded by sending a slug of adrenaline coursing through my veins. I had finally resurfaced again from my studies and now it was time, time to send my body hurling down another muddy trail.
The mountain wore an apron of mist and hissed with the sounds of a million drops crashing into needles, leaves and earth. The effects of the adrenaline were now waning and I settled into comfortable albeit slow rhythm. The muted color pallet of the gray weather was accented with splashes of yellow ochre and burnt sienna from the deciduous trees. I knew my fitness was lacking but it didn’t matter, I was completely alone, running through cloud, forest, and rain.
“There you are”! I thought to myself. “I thought I had lost you for a sec back there in all that school work”.
I climbed the muddy trails and rocky slopes higher into the clouds. The rain had soaked me through now. My heart remembered what was necessary to propel its owner skyward and my pulse quickened and I could feel the response in my temples. The lungs were searing as they tried to capture as much oxygen from each breath and exchange it for the accumulating CO2. I ignored the warning signs my body kept relaying and I began to push. The push started subconsciously but was building momentum and finally it became apparent what I was on about. I wanted to shed this sedentary chrysalis formed from hours at a desk and weeks under pressure, and I wanted to emerge a runner. Free!
I just kept on pushing. My legs were spinning and spinning. They didn’t seem to mind as much as the circulatory and pulmonary systems, in fact, I have a feeling they needed this as much as my restless mind.
I topped out and started down the other side of the mountain and didn’t even pause for a second. This run was not about meeting some training goal; it was not even about trying to salvage some form of fitness. This run was linked to something much more instinctive almost to the very basic fight or flight response found in each of us. Though I was flying I was not running from anything, quite the contrary, I was fighting…I was fighting for myself; I was fighting for balance; I was fighting for my sanity. I was tired of my life being so lopsided and I was ready to get back to a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. I hated the idea that to succeed in one area of your life other equally important facets of ones life must be neglected and those aspects of ones self quickly atrophy faster than idle muscles. I also understood at that moment that this aspect of excelling in one aspect of your life to the neglect of others can’t be avoided all the time, and it would only be for a short time. I looked down at my legs and was surprised to see their rapid cadence. I was on fire.
The next thing I knew I was back to my car. A flash…A blink and the run was over. I sat on the wood slat fence a little queasy and very light-headed. I was truly happy. It felt as though a “reset” switch was flipped and I was back to normal. It is interesting how something so seemingly simple as running through the forest on a rainy fall day can completely re-center your thoughts and attitude. What seemed to be drowning me just one hour earlier was now something I could face again with new vigour. My scrambled and turbulent mind was now refocused and clear. In one hour, running unloaded what took 6 weeks of heavy studies, travel. and stress to build up. Once again I was free of my burdens. How do people who don’t run cope with life?