I can feel the wispy hairs on my face and I wipe them away, again. This is the drill every few steps as I run through another web. My face is at the exact height where every spider in this forest has chosen to span the trail. I try to ignore the silky threads that are tickling my face and any hitchhikers I’ve picked up along the way – little eight-legged critters who might be clinging to my black sweaty shorts or hiding in the folds of my hydration vest. Like the spiders, I’m relentless. Each footfall, each balancing arm swing, each mantra uttered under my breath: just keep moving.
And I do, until it feels like I can’t move anymore. And I’m pissed that I’m stopping. That my pace has been about two minutes slower per mile than what I thought when I generously estimated my pace for this run. That I tripped and fell on the climb up from Muggun Creek. That I did so. much. walking in the second half. That I hardly feel like a runner today, and definitely not a trail runner. Not even close.
I dig out the emergency GU I shoved in my vest, the GU that was supposed to carry me through the final miles of this planned 25K route and I hop on the two-track that I know will take me back to the road, two miles shy of what I’d planned on covering at Swedetown. It feels like quitting.
This run was lonely. I left my earbuds in the pocket of my shorts, too worried I’d be flying (ha!) along the trail and not hear a bear ambling my way or a porcupine crossing the path (don’t get me started on porcupines). I thought I’d really miss my podcasts, but the toughest part was being stuck with nothing and no one else but myself for the better part of four hours. I did not expect this, considering that most of the time I’m begging for time alone—a few minutes to read, or knit, or for god’s sake, just go to the toilet with no one else in the bathroom saying Mama, Mama, Mama over and over and over.
It turns out I have a low threshold for myself. And the “me” time I crave wasn’t really that at all; it was time spent being distracted by other things. Other stuff. Anything other than just being alone with Amy Blake.
I wonder if I have ever been truly okay with being alone. Really alone. That deep down, trail running is tough not solely for the terrain and the challenges it presents, but that it comes down to two things: the trail and me. Nothing else.
Maybe this is what scares me the most.