Using the sides of the washed out trail I bounce from left to right down a small hill on the trail I hear calls and songs of other runners. I see all sizes, all body types, and folks who are sprinting, walking, skipping. Running is one of those things that you can do anytime, anywhere, and for any reason. It brings folks together, its gives us a purpose.
There are those who love competition and dig deep to find new places in the heart and spirit found by pushing through pain, bombing up mountains, falling down hills, traveling new distances, recording new times. These folks inspire me with their grit and determination. These are the runners I admire, watch, and cheer on from a distance when I course marshal races.
There are beginning runners who find so much satisfaction when they realize they can run a mile, they can run a 5k, and they are capable and able. These runners find gifts in the sport everyday as they realize their own potential and try out new shoes, new shorts, and slowly begin to realize their own worth as they put one foot in front of the other and progress minute by minute, day by day.
Ultramarathoners have a different goal to pace evenly, to breathe rhythmically, to find the meditative qualities of runs lasting longer than a day, runs lasting into the night. These runners can sometimes be quiet and have the pensive look as if they have been sailing for months and their feet are not quite on the ground. Their legs always show some measure of training and their philosophy is to walk, rest, but always move forward.
Trailrunners are out for the beauty, for the grounding element of nature, for the varying terrain, and the solace of the mountains and nature. These runners might even carry backpacks or take on night runs like the ultramarathoner to converse with the moon and whisper to the aspens. They find new ways to steady the pace up and down the trails and sometimes they like to get lost and to push the edge of the unknown path.
After our run we all break bread and as I look around I see the church of running. We all sing hymns in our feet at different paces, different shapes, different steps, singing with our bodies and voices. We know that running is something bigger than us, that it brings us together and feeds our spirits. We talk of the races coming up, how we will crawl or sprint up Jelm mountain, put a team together for a relay in the desert, run one hundred miles in August, or simply plan the next run at the park. Running is our heartbeat, running is our friend, running is an aspect of who we are, who we want to be. It teaches us how to be with ourselves in the moment with our breath and to cherish each step that gives us the larger gift of running, the glorious gift of life.
“The five S’s of sports training are: stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit.”