Running · To whom it may concern

The feeling that you give me, wanna give it right back

Today I ran. I ran in the woods, far and deep, fast and free.

There is something so innately magical about running outside of the city. I always forget what a difference a forest canopy can make – to not only the strength of your strides, but the steadiness of your breath, the limberness of your limbs, and the sureness of your step. I don’t know how it happens, but I am always ten times the runner, the moment I step foot onto that trail.

Today I ran. Today I ran in Lynn Canyon, a beautiful park on Vancouver’s North Shore, a short eighteen-minute drive from my house on an early, sunny Sunday.

I woke to Nymeria, chittering away at a pair of crows who were loitering on a telephone wire, just outside of the sunroom window. Stealing out from under the covers, I made a break for the kitchen, leaving my better half snoozing away, ensconced in a dreamworld of his own. Once safely away from our sacred space of rest (I have been chastised many times for being too rowdy in the darkened morning hours), I made myself a cup of milky-sweet coffee and sat down to plan my route.

Lynn Park is such a perfect place for an outdoor adventure, because no matter what your skill level or desired workout, there is always a path for you.

When hiking I choose Lynn Peak, and when running I will complete 2 or 3 loops of Lynn Loop, alternating between clockwise and counter, each and every time.

In just two short weeks I am running a 15 kilometer trail race, but have only run one other trail this year. As such, I thought it best to keep today to two loops (11 kilometers total, beginning and ending at my parking spot).

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At the end of today’s stairmaster.

I have been running steadily since completing the BMO Marathon on May 1, but I’ve been keeping the distances relatively short and haven’t run farther than 17 kilometers – and all on road.

Trail running is such a different beast from its concrete-driven alternative. The immediate elevation gains and losses; wet roots that cut up your path; loose rock and rogue ruts; slick stairs and deeper-than-they-look puddles – it’s a veritable minefield out there and one can never underestimate the importance of remaining mentally sharp.

Case in point: I nearly blew out my right ankle at both the very start of my run today, and the very end. The first incident occurred when I came careening around the corner at the start of the loop and jumped out of the way to avoid stampeding an older walker and her dog. I landed on a large, loose rock, and my foot immediately gave way to the right. Luckily I have some strong and dexterous ankles, and I continued up the trail uninjured (although extra-vigilant for the next bit of the run.)

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Fog and sun, today.

The second incident happened right at the end of the second loop. I was absolutely bombing down the trail and encountered a family full to the hilt with children and various child-related detritus. In my bid to get out of their way, I slid, again, onto my right ankle, but my momentum carried me through and I escaped unscathed.

I really like these moments. They get my heart pumping and really force me to take stock of what it is I am doing, and what I need to focus on to both keep up my speed and stave off my complete destruction.

But what I think what I love the most about trail running is how unencumbered I am.

How I feel like I could keep moving up and on, forever.

Today I thought a lot about music – about (hopefully) seeing the Tragically Hip in July, and about the magic that was Future Islands and Spoon exactly one year ago today. I thought about how much of Tegan and Sarah’s new music makes me feel like a heartsick fifteen-year-old, and how nostalgia wrecks havoc on us all, no matter what our age. I also debated back and forth on whether or not when I write it’s the music that influences my words, or if the act of articulating thoughts somehow infuses the music with deeper meaning.

(My conclusions were inconclusive.)

I thought about my beautiful sisters who live so far away. About my mum, and how in less than one month we will be adventuring around the North of Europe, leaving our distinct brand of Canadian wit, charm, and madness on the cities we will visit.

I thought about the Olympics, and municipal politics, and Brexit, and how I was going to weed my garden when I got home.

I also cried, but not because I was sad, or happy, or even because I was actually crying. My tears streamed unselfconsciously, quietly, and unannounced. They were born from the beauty and quiet of these moments.

Running is sublime because of both its simplicity and perfection. Sometimes, the warmth of the knowledge that everything in my body and soul was made to do this, and only this, is almost too exquisite to bear.

People think that distance athletes are weird, or narcissistic, or masochistic (or maybe they think we are a combination of all three, and hey, maybe we are) but I wish that everyone could know this splendour. I wish everyone could know the richness of this moment.

Of knowing that you can fly.

7 thoughts on “The feeling that you give me, wanna give it right back

  1. “need to focus on to both keep up my speed and stave off my complete destruction” is cutting edge, Vanessa. Trail running indeed. Way to go to be in the flow and no accident.

    1. Hey Terry! First, I just want to say how much I appreciate you reading my little blog and taking the time to reply. It means a lot! And too bad I couldn’t keep up my cutting edginess the last weekend, eh? :)

  2. You make running sound glamorous and romantic, fun, and adventurous. I’m still content to just read about your running escapades.

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