Early this morning, I put my trail shoes on and ran at my favorite spot. It’s a 4-mile loop through a nearby forest. The forest is filled with pine trees and small rolling hills.
To begin, I pop a stick of gum in my mouth and start jogging. The air has a chill and my body feels stiff, so I take it easy at first. My mind starts to wander a bit as I let my legs struggle to find themselves. I see the mountains in the distance and I wonder how long it would take a bee to fly from here to the top of one of those peaks.
I round the first turn. The wind is picking up. It meanders at first through the pine needles, then speeds up, exhaling cool and crisp from the clouds. The wind makes an amazing sound blowing through the trees. It reminds me of my childhood when I spent more of my time listening to the world around me.
I hear my self breathing. There’s a rhythm to it – like one of those old steam locomotives steadily puffing as it pushes and pulls to turn it’s wheels. I can tell my lungs are working, but not too hard. As I start the gentle climb towards the next turn, I feel I can push a little more.
It’s just me out here…plus a few birds…maybe some deer. Uh, never mind. I spot another jogger up ahead. This other person (he appears to be an older gentleman) has captured my focus. Am I catching up? I seem to be. I’ll pass him. But, I need to be careful. I don’t want to turn on the jets and then peter out later on, only to watch him pass me by, a la the Tortoise and the Hare.
I patiently make progress and soon I’m right behind him. I make the pass, pausing at his pace temporarily to exchange pleasantries, then pushing ahead.
I make it around turn number three with a renewed energy. My legs chug obediently up a small hill until I reach the highest part of the trail. It’s mostly downhill from here. As the trail descends, I surrender a bit and let gravity have some fun with me. The journey speeds up and I whiz by a couple out for a hike and then their trailing dog heading in the opposite direction.
I reach the final turn and I realize there are only a few short, steep up/downs left. I strike a deal with the trail – I’ll sprint the uphill parts, if you’ll agree to do all the work for me on the downhill portions. So, the pace quickens and my heart beats harder. My eyes focus on the rugged trail ahead making sure my feet have a safe place to land. My legs and lungs have no problem with this final push as it’s short-lived.
At last, I reach the top of the last hill and my journey is complete. I take a moment to catch my breath. The thought of doing a second lap tries to creep into my mind, but I quickly reject the idea. I’ll head home and perhaps do this all over again next weekend.