Seven days of inactivity left my body yearning for some self human propulsion. The final race of the year ended and the impetus to plunge into sustained movement was back after three days. Addiction, it seems, can be healthy when one’s physiological or psychological dependence is on a potentially healthy drug. The natural endorphins encountered from nourishing exercise can be a powerful driving force. The withdrawal is absolute; although the syndrome of often painful physical and psychological symptoms that follows discontinuance of an addicting drug is not ‘painful’. Uncomfortable; yes, Discontent; sometimes, Restlessness; yes, Despondent; sometimes, Irritable; yes. It is mostly, just plain awkward. There is a lot of time and energy that suddenly needs to be replaced. This is where a lot of house chores come into play…but that’s not fun. How about something inspiring?
I lay in bed until I can stand it no longer. There is no denying my body has acquired all the sleep it needs. It is my first Saturday in over a year with no plans to train. It seems daunting to have a full day with no workout. I worry that my excess energy will be spent cleaning the house all day. Augh, I lay in bed longer, contemplating how to handle my day. Then, an idea formulates and I’m out of bed in a flash.
“C’mon Milo , let’s go running.” The day’s brilliant sunshine warmed the air to a comfortable 50 degrees encouraging some outdoor happenstance in mid November. I gulp down some pulpy orange juice and grab my running attire. I’m wearing a short sleeve shirt and shorts with a hat and sun glasses to neutralize the bright sun. Milo and I drive a quick 2 miles, the last ¼ mile on dirt road to the base of Hulls Gulch.
We start climbing immediately. The steady climb makes for slow going but warms us quickly, Milo is already panting. The temperature couldn’t be more arousing for running with light beads of sweat forming around my hat in the brisk afternoon air. It seemed Milo and I had beaten the rush of people that would surely take to the hills on this fine day. As we continue to climb we encounter almost no one. For long stretches we take the scene in while feeling alone in our serenity. I meditate on the sound of my foot strikes hitting the hard packed sand. Quick strikes against the earth as I dance up some craggy areas along our ascent.
My mind is free to wonder. This simple pleasure invigorates my spirit, partly due to my fitness. My body feels good while I climb and climb up the side of a mountain. Feeling good while ascending a mountain charges the brain with endorphins. I find what I’ve been craving the last seven days. Soak it up. Experience the surrounding. A transformation takes place. Your senses are on alert. Something basic takes over as if you’ve been transported through time. Back to a time and place where survival is paramount… You are now on a hunting expedition trying to cover vast amounts of land in search of prey. Your tribe is hungry and they are counting on you to find them something to eat. The water is rushing down the mountain side in the creek just below the trail. Following a water source almost always ensures a successful hunt. You smell the air and pick up sage brush, decomposing leaves, mud from drying out rain puddles and… a hint of your prey. Scanning the hillside you notice movement up on a craggy outcropping. Adrenalin spikes through your system and your body moves with stealthy efficiency. In one fluid motion the spear raises above your head with your elbow pointing right at the target. The speed of your attack startles the deer and they hesitate for an instant. They take off up the hill but it’s already too late. The thrust of your arrow rock meets the flesh of the deer’s neck. It is a decisive blow. Your tribe will feast tonight.
We continue climbing the mountain.
The steady climb brings us high above the valley giving us a birds-eye view of our town. The grade gets steeper as we reach the crest of the trail. We have now been unremitting in our ascent for almost an hour. It is rewarding to see your progress laid out before your eyes. You have just ran away from the city… far into the wilderness under your own power. It feels good to escape. Peering off towards the valley below the city is a small model confined to a diminutive area far away. The tranquility of the moment lures one to stay awhile as if the open space around you somehow empowers you.
The sheer joy of the descent is evident in my sore thighs as we near the bottom. I fall down the mountain with delight; enjoying the speed and efficiency that my body thrust itself. I am not a good example of this, yet, it is astounding how well balanced a two-legged human can fall down a mountain gracefully. A crash at this angle and high speed would be harsh but the acceleration from falling is too much pleasure to have any kind of delimiter. I fly down the mountain with all the grace and speed I can muster. Forget about everything else…it is thrilling.