When I started up the last hill, a sense of relief came over me like a blanket on a cold night. Eleven minutes and one mile earlier, I was afraid of continuing; the trail was slick from recent rains and I had no idea how far I’d have to run to reach the summit Viewpoint. Though I had hiked the trail a couple of weeks before, I didn’t mark any distances nor was the trail on any map of which I was aware. I did know, however, that there was a steep climb upon a slippery trail and I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge of running up the trail. But when I reached the summit Viewpoint and measured the grade and distance, I felt like a member of Lewis & Clark’s expeditionary team (the view is quite stunning, as evidenced in the video above).
While I ran, a thought occurred to me: Fear is not a fact. Sure, there was a good chance that I could slip, there was maybe a slim chance that I’d come across a bear, and it was true that if I did run into some kind of trouble, I’d have no option but to somehow make it back to my car because there was no phone service within the canyon. However real the possibilities of danger were, my fear wasn’t true. Fear is an emotion that tells me that I will have to make adjustments; for example, to compensate for the slippery terrain, I’d have to shorten my stride and run more “flat-footed” than I normally would run. And if a happened upon a bear, I’d just have to wrestle it like Daniel Boone did. And if something did happen where I’d need to crawl back to my car, I’d just have to do it. I could have let the fear overwhelm me; but then I wouldn’t have reached the summit.
Trail running has come to inform much of what I do. I have found it to be a mindful practice, in and of itself. It’s as though my mind becomes a tabula rasa once I commit to the trail; I find a focus that overcomes any fear that may present an obstacle when I first set out on a trail. I use that knowledge when I teach. Fear stops people from heading out on their own respective paths, especially when it comes to recovery from an addiction. But if I can train myself to overcome my own fears, then I know that others can train themselves to find their own place of realizing that their own fears are not facts. I’m not especially strong, nor am I gifted in any way. The truth is that I’m just an average person trying to find my place in this world, just like everyone else. Yes, I have studied and come to understand Addiction and Recovery Psychology, but the reality is that it’s up to everyone to find their own best version of themselves. I can’t tell anyone what’s right for them, nor can I judge anyone about the wrongness of their actions. The best I can do is show people that there are options for finding all that is good and strong and beautiful in this world; they just have to clear their minds of unreal clutter and listen to their own truth.
I run because it’s a way for me to purge bad juju and find answers I didn’t even know I sought. When I reached the summit Viewpoint, I felt a peace that soothed any fear away. I believe with every fiber of my being that we all can find that place where we can learn to trust ourselves, in spite of fear or anger or guilt. I’m learning more every day – time to plan my next trail run so that I can find something new inside of me.