The trail that we train on is one giant 20 mile loop. We like to say that it’s like a game. It has different “levels.” Every 4 miles or so the topography changes, but it’s still the same trail. Once you start running on it, you’re committed. Even after the first 5 miles, if you decide you don’t want to run the full 20, the thought of turning around and going back is so cumbersome that you just forge on ahead. The first five miles are the worst miles of the trail. It’s hilly, and the ground is made up of red clay, and so it’s extremely slippery. It’s a time warp thing. The trail sucks you in and spits you out on the other side. A runners first time around Chicot is brutal and it’s deserving of congratulations, much like a first marathon or major race.
Knowing this, we still go. Every weekend either on Friday or Saturday night I am getting my trail gear ready. We drive an hour and wordlessly start our trek. 20 minutes or so later, or 1.5 miles, we are rewarded with the most beautiful sunrises Louisiana has to offer. So many emotions hit you at once, but mostly you feel serenity as you become a part of the scene. On both sides sit enormous cypress trees, giant cranes, fish jumping, frogs and crickets singing and a glorious pink sunrise.
I think the reason we keep going back is so that we can spend some time with our purest self. The self that so many are searching to find. How lucky am I? When I feel lost and overwhelmed, all I have to do is drive an hour and spend some time battling it out with the dirt. There is something very raw and primal about the whole thing, even if I do have an ipod strapped to one arm and a timex strapped to the other.
It’s also a metaphor for life. The ever changing scenes of the trail remind you that there is no constant in life. As much as we try to make things that way. Nothing stays the same. We have to be able to accept the change and run with it (pun intended).
I have taken some risks with a new direction that I’ve chosen in life, and I have come to realize that at the end of it all the only thing that matters is that I can look myself in the mirror and see my true self. There are no barriers, no shrouds. It’s just me, and I like that.