My trail running shoes had been submerged in mud and water too many times to count. My pink calf compression sleeves were dotted with patches of mud and dirt was pretty much everywhere on my lower body. This was exactly what I was wanting — a solid 9 miles on the trails at Bond Lake. That would be half of my long run total. I could finish up on the roads and feel confident in getting in the mileage on my last really big training day before the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon in two weeks. I’m new to running at Bond Lake but the group which runs there is incredibly friendly and welcoming. And luckily Nancy had agreed to run the trails with me for my training run. She kept to my slower pace and together we figured out the trails. OK, so once we got a bit lost, but nothing we couldn’t figure out. About three-quarters of the way through our run, we hit an open meadow. It was a bit rutty and a tad wet but nothing too terrible. Nancy offered this observation:
One of the reasons I started running was because it made me feel like a kid again. But trail running? Running through fields and mud? This really brings you back to feeling like a kid, doesn’t it?
I wholeheartedly agreed. Then promptly went back to being focused on my training. Oh, I was enjoying myself, but we have a goal in mind. There were 18 of these miles overall to do. And while I smiled at my inner child, I quickly went the grown up route to focus through the rest of my run. By the time I hit the road, it was quite warm. The route lacked shade. And I didn’t bring enough water and Gatorade with me. So I called in reinforcements. (Read: Dad) I completed my 18 miles and felt pretty good –physically, mentally and emotionally.
But the words of Nancy lingered with me. What was it like to be a little kid? I certainly wasn’t afraid to get dirty. I wanted to do and be all kinds of things. Life was big and I could play in it however I wanted – sometimes with friends, sometimes by myself. There were very few “shoulds” other than those to keep me physically safe. I didn’t worry about how I looked. I dreamt up big ideas and did not think “yeah but” or try to “figure out” how to do it. I’m not knocking my adult wisdom. Experience can be a great teacher, but no lesson is absolute. I was reminded this weekend of how important it is to connect to that little kid who felt free and lived in total possibilities (even if Mom did control the popsicles and I couldn’t venture much further than my neighbor’s backyard without assistance and supervision). The ability to imagine and dream keeps my soul alive. When that spirit drives my training, my work, my relationships, everything falls into place, even on the challenging days.