My Ode To Solo Trail Running

Guest Post by: Monica Goodchild

I love when the parking lot is empty.

Perfect, I think; I’m alone.

I’ve reduced my essentials down to running shoes, car key and cell phone; all neatly packaged in an extremely dorky reflective fanny pack. No headphones.

The sounds are half the reason why I do this; why I drive out so far – why I smile at empty parking lots. When you’re here, when you’re immersed in it; you can hear symphonies orchestrated by birds and the crunching of leaves. In a world that sometimes seems to be constantly buzzing, there is calm here underneath my rushing feet.

You see I was tired of the same old concrete path, the trucks guzzling out fumes as I ran by inhaling, expanding my lungs and filling them up with toxins. Even my reflection in the windows passing by was enough to turn back around and head home.

Enter the trail, no concrete in sight; just dirt, leaves and the occasional tree root. You are forced to stay focused: left, right, left, right, breathe, breathe; a moving meditation. Time ceases to exist…one, two, three hours flash by in a second, those ever fleeting moments in one’s life (reminds me a little of growing older) and I find myself thinking

where did all of the time go?

On the trail I feel strong, I feel light; as a woman that suffers from body image disorder, body image doesn’t matter. Like how the trees come in all shapes and sizes, I too exist on the trail as another figure on the path. Sometimes beside the path – even intentionally steering away from the path. I’m free.

A woman gliding on top of fallen leaves and leaping over logs with no clear destination; I make the rules, all of them.

My mind is quiet and I let the trails speak.

I’ve tried many things to combat the voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough, my body isn’t small enough, demanding that I have to do better; trail running has been my medicine.

When the sun streaks through the trees drawing patterns on the forest floor I see irreplaceable beauty; when I glance and spot a dozen tiny mushrooms growing on a log that has long since been on its decomposition journey back to the soil, I am reminded of life, death and reciprocity.

The woods help to remind oneself of rebirth in all of its many forms, and in a sense it is a rebirth for me too as I am constantly reminded of all of the millions of organisms, plants and animals that are all working together to create life, to survive.

Suddenly the voices in my head become so small, so insignificant and I feel comfort knowing we are all connected.

It’s almost time to head back now, doing my best to remember all of the twists and turns I took throughout the trail. I’m lighter than when I first started, not only in body but in mind; which is something I am truly grateful for. I find my way to the parking lot through a few trial and error paths and notice a car pulling in, the driver just about to start their journey on the trail. Whether it be by walking or by running, I smile at them knowing they feel the magic too. I quickly unlock the car door and slide in, making a conscious effort not to linger, it’s their turn, I think to myself; I’ll let them start with an empty parking lot.

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