One of my favorite running trails is Bicknell Brook – Colette Trail a few miles from my house. Unlike running up back, I have to remove myself from my environment and routine and drive there. I found it about 2 years ago and it’s more than just a hike or run. It’s a classroom for all sorts of lessons I could probably find elsewhere, but not with nearly as much enjoyment.
Since I found this little piece of shady paradise, I have wavered between taking people with me and keeping it to myself. Each time I visit it’s an experience I cherish, no matter who I’m with. And each time I seem to learn a bit more about myself. Life Lessons learned in the woods.
Sometimes you need to stop and stick your toes right in. At least stick them into the trickle of the brook that covers the beautiful rocks. Too often in life I run through my daily routines, taking little time to relax and let life gently surround me. Instead, I get caught up in the whys and hows of what is, what was and what shall never be, becoming so locked in my own head I’m not truly present. Today as I looked at the cool water running ever so gently over the moist rocks, I thought “hey, I bet that would feel good…” And it did. Instead of running right by with the thoughts in my mind, I took the time to slip out of my shoes and socks and let the water caress my feet. It felt good. It felt better than good; it felt amazing!
You can do anything you set your mind (and legs) to. As long as you stick to it. I started running trails two years ago when it became a matter of necessity more than anything. I had added more and more mileage to my morning walks throughout the summer when the kids were home from school and needed to make up the time somewhere. I started running the downhills, working my way up to the flats and eventually most of the uphills too. The first time I ran Bicknell I gave myself a goal of 1 1/2 hours. After all, I could HIKE it in 2, so this should be a piece of cake. When I came back out in the parking lot in one hour, I was thrilled! Tired, but thrilled! Not only had I done it a lot faster than I thought, I ran the whole thing. I didn’t need to stop once. I suppose it might be one of the reasons it’s my favorite! It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you just start small.
It’s okay to look behind you, but only to see how far you’ve come. I won’t lie. I’m a big one on looking in my past and thinking of all the things I could have done differently. But on the trail, if you look behind you too much you’ll fall flat on your face. You always have to be looking one step ahead of your feet so you don’t trip on a rock or root or twist your ankle in a hole. There is way too much shit going on to worry about where you’ve been. Still, it never hurts to look back and see where you’ve come from and how hard you’ve worked to get there. You just can’t spend a lot of time doing it. Move along little doggie…
There are a lot of trails in life. Try them all. Every trail may lead to the same place, but each one has its own unique quality. There are quite a few routes you can take through the Colette Trail. Some cut off the points closest to the water, bringing you deeper into the woods, making your run faster. You can take the long loop back to the parking lot or the shorter, more direct one. While I generally stick to the main trail, I’ve found myself delving into the less active paths to see where they come out. I know I won’t get lost, but sometimes I just need to spice it up a bit, discover something I never knew existed. As I face the next stage of my life, I know there will be a lot of trails for me, a lot of paths I can take. The one I ultimately choose will be the right one, but taking the path less traveled has always been my way. I just keep wondering…what does it hold? Where will it take me?
Be free to make changes as you go and add where necessary. “The Best of Kansas” isn’t always long enough to make it through the full run. Sometimes I have to add a bit of J. Geils and The Cars too. The art of improvising is key in every facet of life. While I’m sure it makes more sense to create a long playlist from the beginning, sometimes it just isn’t what you need. Frankly, I don’t choose my music until I’m out there (and if I’m listening to the radio I have no control). Every day is different and what’s needed to keep going changes as you go along. If you find yourself short of dreams, find some more. It really is that simple. Besides, how boring would the same ole’ playlist be?
Just because it feels good at the time doesn’t mean it was the smartest thing to do… This lesson came a few years ago when I thought it would be really cool to take the kids to the pools and swim. NOT a good idea. I, of course, was the only one to swim…and then had to hike out in wet clothes. Really? I was SO chaffed I thought my legs were burning when we stopped at Grafton Pond for a real swim. They hurt for days! But you know what, it was fun while I was doing it, so was it really that stupid? Well, probably. Next time I’ll just bring a change of clothes!
Sometimes we have to go through the shit to appreciate the smallest of things. When you are sweating like crazy, even the slightest breeze feels amazing. This one came to me today, my second 80+ degree Bicknell run in a week. Sweat was dripping into my eyes, coating every inch of me in a thick layer of yuck. But then the breeze came and felt SO good! I was reminded of my girlfriend, Laura, who lost almost everything in Irene last year. When the smallest plant came back in the Spring, it was like a gift from on-high. It’s amazing how a simple word, smile or action can make a world of difference. You can be having the worst day in the world and when someone reaches out and takes the time to care, it really feels amazing.
It’s okay to not run full steam ahead. There are many times when I just can’t run the whole trail. I no longer mind if I have to slow down and walk for a while. It actually gives me the time to reflect, react to my surroundings and take stock of what I’m trying to accomplish. And sometimes it just gives me the time to catch my breath before running again. Whatever the reason, it’s okay to go at a comfortable pace no matter what I’m tackling. Sometimes it yields much better results in the long run.
There are hundreds of other lessons that run through my head as I run (and walk) the paths around me. Some are random and make absolutely no sense to anyone but me, while some are more poignant. Sometimes I think of who I am and who I want to be. Other times I listen to my playlist or my favorite DJ on iheart radio and don’t think of anything at all. It all depends on the day…and the run…and the lesson I seem to need the most.