Head down—glassy-eyed stare tethered over faltering steps. Here I find myself stumbling over damp, broken earth: stones of granite, foothold roots, and puddled, murky water. It’s a masochist’s game, this mountain running thing—entering the trailhead while the rest of your world sleeps. The minutes pass and accumulate into hours; you center yourself, searching for your breath, stride, and cadence. This is your release; this is your escape; this is your faith.
Rows of Maples pass overhead. While the sun still hides itself away, life is beginning to stir. Animal tracks appear in the spread of the headlamp light: a bear? I start whistling aloud.
I’m scaling this mountain, ascending into the sky, and grasping at clouds; bird songs have faded, bark has been dwarfed, and vegetation has failed to germinate; my nostrils are burning, my arched spine aches, my quads are turgid with lactic acid, and my toenails are blackened and loosening. This is only momentary.
This is the void. Pendulum legs swing along their XYZ axis. I’m hoping I hear my outsole connect with dirt. The trees are behind me now and I feel like forfeiting.
Step; step; grasp your quads if you need to; step; watch your breath; step; step; keep your feet; keep your cadence. Let go of the pain.
The sun has risen, the clouds have dispersed, and an infinite skyline lies before me: this summit is the world between my own and that beyond my reach. All of that pain meant nothing, because this, right now, will last forever.
*Published as part of Ruminate Magazine’s “Reader’s Notes: On a Way Through” within their March 2018 issue*