- This was printed in December of 2013 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 29th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.
My running buddies nicknamed me Gazelle.
I never did ask why, exactly, but I assume it’s because of my speed and my stride — I’m
light on my feet and a ball-of-the-foot striker who tends to “prance” over any obstacles.
As stupid as it may sound, I felt like I became one with my nickname on Sunday at my
first-ever true trail run.
I was a mountain gazelle leaping over rocks, logs and roots. I was taking banked turns so
fast that my body felt nearly horizontal. I was leaping and prancing and flying and having
the best time of my life on that trail.
By my count 22 of us carpooled to the South Finegold Day Use Area at Millerton Lake to
get a good hill workout in. Truth be told, those weren’t hills. Those were the hills’
cousins — mountains. If my Nike+ GPS watch is correct, we started around 600 feet
elevation and got up to nearly 1,300 feet.
I ran about 8 miles roundtrip, leading the pack out of pure excitement. Nothing compares
to trail running, and I’m a little disappointed I haven’t discovered this until now.
My eyes were trained a few feet ahead of me, predicting where my feet would fall and
then adjusting my body for impact. Each step was carefully placed. I was trying as hard
as I could to avoid stepping directly onto loose rocks and severely uneven ground. (All of
the ground was uneven, but I was trying to step where I was least likely to injure myself.)
I missed a few times and rolled my left ankle. It wasn’t too bad, but I’m definitely feeling
the muscle strain this week.
For the first mile or two I was concentrating so hard on trying not to fall that I hardly
noticed the beautiful view. Millerton Lake is gorgeous when you’re looking down on it.
When I reached a relatively flat stretch of the trail where the dirt was clear of precarious
rocks and twigs, I happened to glace toward the water and immediately stopped.
Breathtaking — I have no other word for that view.
I paused my watch, whipped out my cell phone and took a few “selfies” with the lake in
the background. (I’m part of the generation that believes “if it’s not on Facebook, it didn’t
My photo break was long enough to let another runner catch up to me, but it wasn’t long
before I bounded ahead of him. It wasn’t my competitive spirit that drove me ahead of the
group; it was the love of the private experience that I had never had the opportunity of
I loved running in the wilderness, several hundred meters ahead of anyone else, hearing
only the sounds of my breathing and my footfalls — far enough away to feel alone.
Concentrating on the terrain became second nature and I let my mind drift as I glided
over the soft, slightly damp dirt. As I write this I can’t even remember what I thought
about; I can only remember the semblance of bliss I felt on that run. If that wasn’t
running with God, I don’t know what is.
My body is surely paying for it now — I’m hobbling around as if I completed a
marathon. Every muscle in my body was worked on that run. My hip flexors are killing
me, my quads and calves are burning and my feet, ankles, shins and knees are feeling the
impact of that mountainous terrain. My arms, especially my triceps, are sore — probably
from being so tense while I was concentrating on not eating the trail. My obliques and
abs are tender from trying to stabilize my body during the side-to-side motion I had to
adopt to make it downhill safely.
Trail running is the legit total body workout. Who needs weights, crunches and pushups
when we live a short driving distance from some of the most beautiful trails around?