It hasn’t rained for months and the trails I love are dust not dirt. Steep inclines are virtually impossible to climb, because the ground falls away. Downhills are treacherous because my trail shoes have nothing to grip. It’s like sliding down a sand dune at the beach. Every run is hot, with the sun beating down, and radiating back up. I finish every workout filthy, covered in sweat and grime. And I love it. I love overheating, and being dirty, and dropping to the ground mid-run to crank out some push-ups, and then getting back up looking like Pigpen from Peanuts.
The trails I love are so close to my home I can be there in minutes. Hundreds of people live around them. And I almost always have them to myself. They feel like my special place. My little secret. I go there to train hard. I lift rocks, and logs. I run with them. I carry them. I squat them. I don’t need to pay for a gym. More weight than I could ever lift lies on, and around, the trails I love.
Last year I saw a bear. It was only about fifty feet away. I was scared, but I stayed calm. I backed away slowly. He, or she, took little interest in me, as it lumbered along its own trail, at its own pace. I barely merited a sideways glance. Every time I go out to the trails I love, I wonder if I’ll see a bear. I don’t want to encounter one. And yet, a part of me always hopes I will see one again. From a distance of course, and a perfectly safe vantage point. A bear that’s disinterested in me. A bear that lets me revel in the majesty of one of Creation’s most incredible creatures.
I was home alone when the Queen died. I was shocked, and a little numb. I had never known a world without the Queen. So, I walked to the trails I love, and I sang “God Save the Queen,” to myself, and I was thankful for a woman who lived her life with grace and dignity. I remembered that she was not perfect, which reminded me that none of us are. Perfection is an impossible legacy. Dedication, fortitude, service to something bigger than ourselves – those are obtainable – not easy, but obtainable. The Queen showed that for over seven decades. She gave us all something to try and emulate.
I’d give anything to do a hard workout on the trails that I love. It’s been a while. But my body can’t. I was part of a team of law enforcement officers that ran 129 kilometers in three days last week to honour peace officers killed in the line of duty. It was a very special, very sacred, event. It was also an event I started with a sore knee. A mildly sore knee. A doctor or physiotherapist probably would not have said, “the best thing for your knee is to run 80 miles, mostly on pavement, over three days.” Now almost a week after the run concluded, my mildly sore knee, is constantly hurting. I’m not in agony, I probably won’t need surgery, but something’s not right. Doctor Daryl tells himself that rest and stretching will do the trick, and, in a week or so, all will be right with my left knee.
Even if my knee wasn’t hurting, I still wouldn’t be running. Thanks to Covid. I tested positive a few days ago. It hasn’t been awful, but it’s affected me. A laundry list of mostly mild symptoms: weariness, coughing, loss of taste, night sweats, something going on with my right eye. I have nothing to complain about. I’ve improved daily. And my path to normal began yesterday when I left the house for the first time in three days to walk on the trails I love.
In a few weeks, November rain will arrive, and the same trails will be flooded. The days will be grey, and I’ll return from runs sopping and caked in mud. I will gripe about our wet winters and the lack of sunlight. But the trails I love will remain beautiful. Shine or rain, they exude stillness and peace, bring comfort, guide me towards stillness, and help me be my best self.