Running is not my job but somewhere along the way it has turned into one. I have lost the desire to run. It was never suppose to end this way but tragically it has and I am saddened by this reality. I began running to embrace the moment and escape some of the demons and darkness in my life. I began looking forward to the solitude as well as my alone time. It did not matter how far or how long I ran because I owned the run and nobody could take that feeling away from me. I naively wore street shoes, cotton shirts and even underwear beneath my nylon shorts. I enjoyed the peacefulness of being in the outdoors surrounded by rocks, lakes, trees and animals. Time seemed fleeting as I embraced new adventures. Exploring unknown trails and where they might lead made me feel like a kid again growing up on a dead end road against a forest.
I began running with no expectations and definitely lacked an understanding of the sport. I would drive myself to races and arrive with that unsettling feeling of being under trained. Fear would flood my thinking and feelings of unworthiness would soon rise to the surface. What was I doing hundreds of miles from home even thinking that I deserved to be here? Being surrounded by elite runners while waiting for the starting gun to go off can become extremely overwhelming for someone like myself who suffers from depression and anxiety disorders.
The world is moving too fast for me and I am no longer able to keep up. Despite my desire and efforts to live a simple, uncomplicated life, it is certainly becoming much more difficult to do so. The demands of people as well as advances in technology are both contributing factors. My running has evolved as well over the past two years and not for the better I am afraid. I have lost sight of the simplicity of what is a natural movement. When I first started running, I was amazed at how sensitive I was to my surroundings. As time went on and the demands of meeting expectations increased, I somehow lost the ability to feel the trail and become one with it. I was no longer able to stay in that place between thoughts where my feet would glide effortlessly over rocks and roots.
I made the mistake of thinking that I could become a better runner by having a coach, acquiring the data and sticking to a training program. I believed that structure and accountability were the pillars upon which greatness was built. However circumstances in my personal life challenged those beliefs and only added more pressure to my already stressful life. In addition to mental illness, I have suffered two serious concussions which have left me exhausted and also affected my cognitive ability to absorb and interpret detailed information. I will find ways to manage and avoid situations where I am not able to cope. Running matters in my life and should I lose the ability to find comfort on the trails, then I will have failed in my efforts to find some peace and darkness will win in the end.
I have been discarded by the universe like a rusted out logging truck on the side of a trail. Loneliness flows through my veins like venom from a rattlesnake. My only intimacy is found in the backcountry where the wind kisses my lips and trees wrap themselves around me in a warm, friendly embrace. Beyond the rugged shoreline, meandering rivers stroke my senses with their sounds. In the distance, as the sun falls behind the horizon, I hear the deep howl of a lone Alpha Wolf standing watch over the forest. He reminds me that to run free is to run fearless. To trust your instincts above all else. If I am ever to know what it’s like to feel again, I must find my way back from the edge on a trail with no flags.
I have returned to my primal roots, running free today without the restraints of a heavy computer on my wrist and a tether around my chest. It felt liberating to leave my watch at home and free myself from the bondage of a heart rate strap digging into my sternum. With no predetermined time or distance to worry about, I was able to relax and simply listen to the rhythm of my feet dancing across the trail. At one point, I even allowed myself to walk for a moment without feeling the guilt of falling behind. I run to clear my mind and discard the clutter that accumulates there. I run to reduce the chronic pain in my body that keeps me exhausted most of the time. Mainly I run because of the way it makes me feel, good and bad. Being alone on a trail for long periods of time makes me vulnerable to mood swings and emotional distress. Fatigue is a feeling that has a way of awakening some of my darkest thoughts during a race which scares me.
Running free is a choice. The decision to run naked in the wilderness without a satellite tracking my every move is a personal one. When we choose to unplug ourselves from the pulse of the world, we make room in our brains for creativity. I read a quote from Ken Chlouber, founder of the Leadville Trail 100 who said “you just keep running, we will tell you when to stop”. All I have to remember is to keep the flags on my right going out and on my left coming back. Living simply takes effort but if we slow things down and open our hearts to the kindness of others, the world will be a better place. So I will continue to run free and run long without any gadgets and have a Guinness at the finish with my friends.