Here I arrive upon the darkest month of the year. The early morning miles are still happening almost every day—sometimes under the stars (my favorite), sometimes under the rains (not as pleasant). I am proud of what I accomplished with my running over the fall. I maintained steady mileage every week and month, and I did not experience any injuries through training. I ran my fastest half marathon to date on the other coast, while visiting Cape Cod. I ran a much slower half marathon over 5,000 feet of elevation gain and loss on an extremely technical trail and survived. I learned to trust myself as a trail runner, to trust my feet, read maps, and push through some difficult walls. I have enjoyed a boost to my speed on road runs, and I find myself chasing a faster mile time than I have ever experienced through my running practice. Please indulge the expression, but I feel I have hit my stride. My body knows just what to do.
Despite the frequency, the time between me, my thoughts, my feet, and the ground beneath them continues to feel sacred. I think back to seven years ago when I ran my first half marathon without stopping to take a walk. I was overwhelmed and amazed that I accomplished it once I crossed the finish line. Foolishly, I had long believed running was not for me. But what a gift I have discovered in the years since that turning point! Running practice is the constant validation that I can overcome difficulty. It is the constant whisper that dares me to get uncomfortable and try something new. It is the mode of traversing space and time that helps me to feel the most in myself, the most present, the most aware of the world around me. When I run, I am able to leave much of the baggage of daily living behind and find peace in moving meditation. I return to my door a person renewed and replenished.
Running practice connects me to the natural world and the seasons through which it resides. Winter is a time of turning inward, as I have often reflected in previous years. It is a quieter season. No trumpets, no flare. Sometimes there are solitary miles through drizzle and gloom. Other days, I am treated to sparkling frost and the brilliance of shining sun. It can be a more isolated time on the trails—the fair-weather runners retreat for a time, and hikers dwindle in numbers. Nonetheless, it is an opportunity to watch transition if one looks closely enough. The smallest buds appear, still sheltering themselves from the cold and damp, but holding a promise that they will, in several weeks, bloom and emerge. The bare branches make space for birds and other wildlife to be observed. The creeks, rivers, and waterfalls rush with abundance. Daylight is more precious, but the rapidness with which the sun rises and sets is a glorious reminder to appreciate the ephemeral.
I find the transition between seasons enchanting. I look forward to the weeks ahead of me as we approach the solstice. Plotting out my running goals—returning to some favorite races, and weighing another spring marathon. This is an excellent time to dream.