I started running about twenty-three years ago when I lived in the country on a little ten-acre farmette. There were a lot of trails crisscrossing the property, up and down hills and ravines, over creeks and logs. Part of it was wooded, shady trails and some sunny pasture paths. Every season brought new sights, smells, sounds, and obstacles. There were so many different types of trees and wildflowers on the property and I always saw some form of wildlife. Occasionally I would scare up a herd of sleeping deer and they would thunder off across the pasture and disappear into the woods. There were always hawks floating overhead, snakes sunning themselves on the trail, turtles all in a row, on a fallen log in the pond.
I know a lot of people that like to listen to music when they run but for me, there is something very soothing and peaceful about the sound of cows mooing in some distant field, frogs croaking, squirrels rustling through the brush and birds singing in the trees.
My father had randomly planted redbud trees around the property and every Spring since he passed, the burst of pink blooms are a reminder of the person who raised me to love nature.
With Spring there was always rain, which meant slick trails, mud-caked shoes, rushing water in the creeks and the first blooms of the wildflowers. I love the challenge of slipping and sliding down the slopes, coating my shoes with mud, jumping the slippery banks of the swollen creek and climbing over huge logs that had fallen across the path.
On early summer mornings, the tall grasses and weeds were heavy with dew that drenched my skin as I passed through. Near one part of the creek, there was a large patch of wild mint that grew beside the trail and I loved running through it and smelling the invigorating blast of freshness that filled the air. There were always plenty of wild rose and raspberry bushes with their thorny branches growing out across the trail, scratching at my legs. It was all part of the challenge to try to dodge them!
Throughout the warm months, the pasture was alive with color and sound as flowers, bees and butterflies worked together to create this amazing place for me to run!
My sweet old horse that I’d had since childhood, lived in this beautiful pasture and followed me down the trails like a faithful old friend. Knowing she was clomping along behind me was an incentive to keep moving and try desperately not to fall down! There was a huge old apple tree out in the pasture, filled with fragrant blossoms in the Spring and branches, laden with apples in the Fall. Crystal Star (Crissy), would stand under that tree for hours, foaming at the mouth as she gorged herself on the apples that fell to the ground. After a few years several apple trees sprouted up around the pasture. I like to think she “planted” them in her special brand of fertilizer! To this day the fragrance of apple blossoms is one of my favorite smells on earth.
In the Fall, the scent of damp leaves carpeting the trail was heavenly! Sometimes the trail became treacherous with acorns, walnuts and hedge apples that fell from the trees and covered the ground. I used to rake leaves for weeks it would seem. Usually, I would rake them into a big pile out into the pasture and Crissy would lay down on them, thinking I had made her a big, soft bed!
In the Winter, bundled in snow gear, running turned into more of a trudging. My breath would puff out of my mouth in frozen clouds as I plunged my boots into two-foot-deep snow drifts. The winter landscape was just as stunning as every other season. The sunlight would reflect off of the snow-covered fields making it look like it was covered with diamonds. Cardinals and bluejays flitted about branches sparkling with ice, pine boughs drooped with their heavy load.
I would lumber out in the morning after a fresh snowfall with my camera in hand, the sound of Crissy’s hooves crunching on the snow-covered trail behind me. I would stop occasionally to warm my fingers under her thick mane. And let’s not forget the workout-destroying mug of steaming hot chocolate afterward! My son loved it when I topped his with a pile of mini marshmallows, whipped cream and of course sprinkles.
I didn’t even know that trail-running was a thing at the time. I just knew I adored running out there under the big blue sky in all that beautiful nature. At some point, I read an article about trail running and realized that other people were out there enjoying nature and exercise just like me. Running was addicting for me. I daydreamed about it at work, anticipating the moment I could hit my trails to run! On weekends I would roll out of bed at the crack of dawn, put my running shoes on and hit the trail before anyone one else was even awake.
In 2010 I started training for a 10K race and it wasn’t until I actually started running on some paved paths and roads that I realized what a killer workout I was getting on my trails! The combination of the hills, the off camber trails, the uneven ground, the soil conditions, all made my entire body work harder to keep my balance and constantly change the way I was working my muscles. Plus, the grass and soft dirt on my trails were much easier on my feet and joints compared to that hard pavement. It also took mentally focusing on the trail ahead, checking for roots and holes.
My son still lives on the old farmette and on occasion I am lucky enough to have the chance to still run the magnificent trails there. I have such a sentimental attachment to that property that at times I actually get choked up while I’m running. Nevertheless, I always feel transformed afterward. Crissy eventually found her way to heaven (which I’m thinking isn’t much different from the pasture on the farmette) and I found a new furry friend to join me when I run. I swear there are some magical healing powers in those trails! I’ve never found another place I love to run as much as I do the trails on that little farmette.