Week 23: The Art of Pilgrimage

Everything was ready. My bags were packed with running clothes, nutrition and extra sock and snacks. (Always bring extra socks and snacks). At the end of the workday, I would pick up Scott and we would be off to Pittsburgh for a weekend adventure while I ran the half marathon. I needed one more thing before we left — a mental health check.

I took half an hour to walk through the Lockport Nature Trails — a spot my father introduced me to this year and one I can’t believe I never realized existed before. It was a warmish spring day, in the low 50s. And I needed some time in the woods to ease my mind before this trip.

There was some anxiety. While this was not a “goal” race for me but rather a “training” race (the mileage fit in with my marathon training plan) I still wanted to perform well. I wanted to run better than I did at this point last year but upon closer review of the Pittsburgh course it was hilly. Not terrible hills but hillier than I had anticipated. Maybe this wasn’t going to be a good race for me after all? And there were thundershowers predicted for race day and that caused me some concern for Scott. This would be his first time spectating one of my races. I know that spectating isn’t an easy job. I appreciate the time and effort and energy it takes to maneuver around a race course and support your runner. It can be a tiring task. And for him to do that in bad weather, well, I didn’t want him to have a miserable time.

So I very much needed this walk in the woods. As I’m learning through my Hike 52 project, the time “on the trail” isn’t always about getting some place, about some summit or distance or degree of difficulty. It’s about connection.

I took some deep breaths and started to walk back to the waterfall. I tried to quiet my brain by thinking about the book I’m reading, “The Art of Pilgrimage” by Phil Cousineau. The book details all different kinds of pilgrimages and how we can better travel, even for business, with a more mindful approach. I started thinking about what I wanted from this trip to Pittsburgh. Here on the trail with signs of spring showing in the expansion of green and the occasional pop of wildflower color, I could get away from “shoulds” and my desire to put expectations on everything. Here I could just breathe and be.

What I wanted from this trip was simple. I wanted to see Pittsburgh without the confines of work. I wanted to explore a city on foot over 13.1 miles. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to share with Scott this part of my life — the endurance athlete part of me. Once I shifted from concern about his happiness to my desire to share part of myself with him, the anxiety decreased. (Confession: It didn’t go away, but it did increasingly subside.)

After half an hour I felt refreshed. I felt centered. I felt ready for the adventure.

Hike 52
Week 23
Friday, April 29, 2016
Location: Lockport Nature Trails
Trail: n/a
Total distance: 1.56 miles
Elevation: 87 feet
Duration: 32 minutes
Weather: 51 degrees, mostly cloudy
Hiked with: solo


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