mountain running


Every so often, you get super bored of running the same routes. Running is boring on its own, but day after day, week after week of passing the same houses, saying hello to the same people, and being chased by the same dog really puts a damper on things. And when running gets boring, your whole livelihood falls apart. 

You tend to skip runs more often. "Injuries" start piling up like nobody's business and you end up having to rest your legs on the couch with a bag of Doritos while you binge on Wheel of Fortune. Sometimes even Jeopardy if the mood strikes you. After all, it's on the same channel, and it can be pretty entertaining as long as Mr. Trebek keeps things interesting with his razor-sharp humor.

But the problem is that you're starting to like this new lifestyle. It's growing on you. Unlike your daily run, each nacho cheese dusted tortilla chip has its own personality and flavor, and you never know when Alex is going to call The Daily Double. Suddenly, you've found variety in your life again! Things are beginning to excite you! Hell, the microwave just beeped: you've got Pizza Rolls on the way! 

"Oh boy!" you say to yourself. "Time to cram my pie hole with molten cheesy goodness!"

And you stand yourself up. You hobble through the kitchen, huffing and puffing, barely able to open the microwave door. You feel weak. Your clumsy hands drop all of the Pizza Rolls on the ground, leaving an Italian-American mess all around your bare feet.

You feel sad. "How did I let it get to this point?" you ask yourself. You mope back into the TV room and plop on the couch. 

You notice your running shoes in the corner.

Those stinky, worn-down shoes once gave your life purpose. You'd wake up at the crack of dawn, barely awake, to stumble out the door and get your run in. Each day, you'd pass the same houses, say hello to the same people, and yes, run away from the same goddamn dog that really doesn't seem to have a home, even though it has a collar and someone's always yelling for it. Why don't they keep that thing on a leash?

Every day you'd see the same things... it was the monotony that killed your running. After witnessing the grossness that's become your life pool around your hobbit feet, you want nothing more than to feel the adrenaline coursing through your veins -- as long as it's not boring.

You recall one of your buddies raving about this local trail. He's not really your buddy, but you see each other at 5Ks every so often. He's the runner hippie type, complete with a trucker cap and sunglasses, Forrest Gump-esque hair fixings, "WILL RUN 4 BEER" T-shirt, and Hoka Cliftons, all topped off with the stench of weed. He once told you about the "gnarliest trail" in the state. "It's super rocky, super hilly, super fun. Just around 3,000 feet of elevation gain over 12 miles or so. Lots of quad banging and GU breaks. Say, are you following me on Strava?"

It sounds pretty interesting and like a great way to get back in shape. You get directions to the trail and set out in the morning, because you remember that Weedy Runner Hippie likes to go at dusk to take a selfie with the sunset. 

After driving for what seems like an eternity, you reach the trail head.

The parking lot is like some sort of oasis. You didn't expect there to be a morning crowd, but there sure is. Jolly cyclists whiz by on their fat-tired vessels, hikers strap on their sturdy boots, and just over there -- pooled around that Subaru Outback -- you see a group of trail runners. They're of pretty average build, and they don't take themselves too seriously. They're all enjoying coffee from the Box o' Joe one of them brought. And, most of all, they don't look bored.

As much as you'd love to join them in their merry jaunt, your schlubbiness prevents you from associating with this kind of crowd, so you link up your dusty Garmin by yourself, anxiously awaiting the watch to acquire its satellites, ushering you into this new era of running.

It beeps. You press "START" and you're off into the brush.

Immediately you start huffing and puffing. You haven't run in ages, your muscles are screaming for oxygen as you tackle this steep, rooted, rocky beast that lies beneath your feet, but somehow the electricity in the mountain air energizes you as you continue on. You're turning ankles left and right, you're bleeding from the thorn that caught onto your arm, and you're pretty sure you lost depth perception after a branch scraped your eye.

Just as you began to wonder when this pain train would end, your legs meet even ground. You've reached the peak of the mountain. The rising sun, forcing a hand across your face, draws you closer to the edge of a nearby cliff. The morning light is tamed by gentle clouds peppered by birds of every color. You smile a little. Closing your eyes, you take a deep breath of the alpine air -- and immediately start coughing.

"I knew I'd find you here eventually!" It's the Weedy Runner Hippie, who apparently also likes taking selfies with the sunrise.

He throws an arm around you. "Cheese!" he chuckles as he whips his iPhone out to post a selfie with his new running buddy. You smile awkwardly, trying to hide your disgust with his skunky scent. He tries to get you to go back to his place to "chill out", but you refuse as politely as possible, citing sickness. He offers you GU from his fuel belt, but you say that you'd be fine, and you make haste back down the trail to the parking lot. "See you later, speedgoat!" he coughs.

You admittedly kind of like that nickname, but you know you can never use it. After bombing down the trail and jogging back up to your car, you stop your watch at 2.4 miles, popping a squat on your trunk. You ache in places you didn't know could ache. Despite this, you conclude that it was the most fun you've had in a while, and you know you'll be back soon -- maybe even tomorrow afternoon.

And hey, maybe you'll keep up with running and all. As long as it's not boring.

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