Trail Running a Half Marathon
I started to jog as soon as the director set our small group of runners off: "On your mark"and the loping rhythm of people falling into place, leaping over sagebrush and rocks made me feel like a horse. I was a little jumpy but exhilarated to be out in the sunshine. And the first couple of miles were just finding that pace that felt not too fast, loosening out the bridle of my mind to peaceful contemplation.
We ran past an old corral set down under a stand of tall pines. I felt the depth of that place, its long history, its sweat and blood. It brought to mind Ben Snipes, the northwest "Cattle King" and so many other people, nameless to me but felt somehow. People who lived and died under the harsh sun here, growing food, building lives, raising children, riding horses, letting the wind blow through their hair.
And that day I was one of them. I saw tiny hot pink and bright yellow and cobalt blue wildflowers along the path and heard the sweetest bird songs, good natured and also haunting. Looking miles across the valley floor to the distant Stewart mountain range made me feel like I was flying along, a bird myself.
Ahead of me my friends raced along, one stretching out her hand to grab the scent of sagebrush and draw it to her face. We move down to the valley floor, taking in 2000 feet of descent over several miles. The views just keep shining at me. I can't believe how pretty the day is. It's probably 65 or so, and it's about 10 in the morning.
Then at mile 8, we stretch, eat a snack, count a few blessings aloud to each other. The second half beckons, and it's the hard part: the ascent back up to the ridge. I hike this part, and am slower than my friends. I love the trail through this section, it's partially shaded and meanders uphill through forest and brush. My hearts beats as if it would burst but I feel good otherwise. I get passed twice by old men running up this steep climb. I wonder at their tenacity.
At the top, I visit the aid station. I'm ravenous. I eat two Fig Newtons, drink some gatorade, trade conversation on the amazing bird song there and then jog off. I have three plus miles to go. I'm alone on the trail, the sun is hot, and I'm starting to hurt a little bit. I walk a bit but that is uncomfortable, too. And then, eventually, the trail leads to the end. There's a small hill and I see my three year old son in a turquoise shirt and he sees me and starts clapping. I had envisioned this moment, my family cheering me on, my children remembering me as a woman who did hard things with a smile on her face.
The fulfillment of that dream in this moment is sweet. Cheered on by the people I love I finish with my arms held high. Running and training for my first half marathon was one of the best decisions I've made. I am already looking for one later this year, and that feels wonderful!