It has been a few years since we attempted a destination run. The type where we run for the scenery, the physical gravitas of one’s surroundings, and the joy of camaraderie among one’s fellow runners. As we ran through the redwood forests, I thought to myself how marvelous it was to run and run like a true child of the Earth without urban buildings, construction noise, and piles of concrete. Even the gray road through the forest felt poetic and somehow attuned to its surroundings. (Well, maybe the double yellow lines were a bit jarring, but the gray road didn’t feel quite so intrusive)
After a chaotic start to the half-marathon, it took some time for us to settle into the run. The traffic jams were horrendous – the husband’s implacable optimism about making it to the start line on time was a bit misplaced, especially when we could see other runners leap out of their cars and run to the start line (adding a good mile to their already long runs). Our group of runners were split between two cars and by the time the bibs were collected and we started the race, it was a good 20 minutes past the race start. To make matters worse, the officials were adding to the confusion yelling to all in the vicinity that they would be removing the starter mats that record time. We were thoroughly frazzled as we ran across – not at all sure it had recorded our run, but we ran anyway.
The son ran a 10K, while the husband and I ran the half-marathon. The son having age and weight on his side flew on, while we huffed and puffed behind him trying to keep up. This resulted in a shin injury for the husband (which, he told me later, almost had him wondering whether he should do a 10K instead. Coming from the sun-is-shining husband, this must’ve been a serious enough injury) However, some stretches and slow miles later, he seemed to be in a better shape.
As we ran on and on, deeper into the forest, there was tranquillity there. A meditative pulse to running through trees that started life when humanity was still contemplating the merits of civilized living. Physical gravitas takes on a new meaning in the redwood forests. Young shoots and ferns, the young greens against the textured markers hues of the older trees, the sunlight poring through the branches high above. I thought of the books on redwood trees – Richard Power’s Overstory – the best one I could think off: powerful in its imagery and cathartic to think about just then.
“This is not our world with trees in it. It’s a world of trees, where humans have just arrived.”
– Richard Powers, The Overstory
Between the 7th and 8th mile, I thought I’d missed the mile marker somehow. It seemed interminably long. My leg seemed to have just given up, and I found myself looking up into the tall redwoods begging for strength. To drink from the infinity that seemed to stretch among those majestic trunks. It helped. The depths of the forest tends to speak to the depths of the soul, and I prodded on, careful not to tell the husband about the injury like saying it out loud would somehow make the injury worse. I stretched, grimaced, and plodded on. Each mile excruciatingly long.
I thought of the gray road cutting the mycelium web underground that sustained these trees for millennia and felt a strange stab of remorse : would the web have found a way to continue underneath the gravel to sustain the trees on either side? I’d have to check.
Cosmos episode for: The Search for Intelligent Life on Earth : narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, written by Ann Druyan & Carl Sagan
But yet again, the forest helped.
Whenever the body felt drained and the pain in the right leg flared up, it felt grounding to remind myself that running this course was one of the best things to happen. For the redwoods were calm, the mists rolling in mystical, and the pattering of fellow runner’s feet grounding. There was a strange other worldliness to running through the redwood forests. Pain (possibly ITB) the only reminder that this was not a dream.
I cannot tell you how marvelous it felt to run the last mile and arrive at the finish line – famished yes, but we had managed to finish! Between our injuries, and a clatter of a start, a horse-wallop of a run, we had finally finished. The son was there cheering us on and all was well.
Having a wonderful set of friends on the journey is always helpful, and though we were scattered throughout the race, and didn’t see much of each other – the glimpses and cheers we did get was hugely inspiring.