Around the time my mother was turning 45 I was a frustrated teenager begging her to allow me to try out for the track team. I desperately wanted to have an outlet for energy and social contacts that did not involve church. Maybe it was the latter point that prompted the firm no, although I recall the official excuse being a combination of too expensive and too much time away from studying. I tried proving her wrong and ran around our small town in my gym sneakers for a few weeks but gave up. She was not one to yield to my will.
The age of 45 is in my rear-view mirror. I found running and athleticism as an adult, driven to be in shape to scale cliffs and travel down trails with a heavy pack. My body now needs the exercise to stay in balance—physically and mentally. It chases the anxiety away. I dabbled in road running races for a season or two, but pavement pounded to hard under my feet. Dirt trails were the place for me—a place of whimsy while hoping over rocks and splashing through creeks, and a place of lead where the top of a hill sucks the wind out of me as my thoughts bang heavily inside my head. The trail gives me abundant time to listen to myself and the voices of nature.
I have struggled for the past several years trying to unravel what was left of me after leaving behind the career path I travelled prior to our relocation. I have done a fair amount of trail running in diverse locations in recent weeks and found clarity. The things that distracted me with daydreams back when I identified as a biotech attorney are now my everyday and I need to embrace them. I am incredibly grateful for this new reality, but I had to deal with the guilt of realizing all I had built was gone. There is no more legal or science track for me–I have shed that. They form the foundation that keeps me intellectually curious by news of immunological discoveries and legal decisions, but the true me now is the writer, the photographer, the trip planner, the trail runner. I feel like a lead weight is off my shoulders. I can run full speed down the canyon floor and leap around the wildflowers in the mountains.
At 47, I just signed up for my first trail race. I want to do the work and find more of myself on the trails. Today was day 1, the first run with a goal set. I ran up and down, it seemed like so much down, through a sagebrush and juniper filled canyon with a grin on my face, leaping and talking to the boulders that compelled me to touch them. I gulped for air on the steeps and breathed in the sweet scent of sage. The trail delivered whimsy and lead, and I could not be happier with me. I am not running track or looking back. I am running trail and finding peace.