Yesterday I ran fourteen miles along the pathway behind North Hills, a gorgeous tree-lined trail replete with wooden plank bridges, rolling brooks and singing birds.
It was the kind of long run that I love with every bit of good and bad that long runs provide.
There were the highs; negative splits, good conversation with teammates, camaraderie on the road (no runner left behind), quiet time alone, gear that performed, momentary soft cool breezes, strong legs, water stops complete with Ziplock bags next to coolers of ice, oranges, bagels and cut up bananas.
There were the lows; oppressive heat (90 degrees at five a.m.), exhausted legs, too much talking at tired times, no music during alone times, stinky smells (sewer water?), sick stomach (from either the heat or my decision to try Honey Stingers in place of Shot Bloks), the final mile headed entirely uphill.
At around mile eleven my stomach issues forced me to a stop. I waved my running group on assuring them I’d be okay.
And I was. After removing my FuelBelt and hanging it over my shoulder, I walked until the pain had passed and started up again in the silence between the two groups.
So close to the finish (yet so far) I came across a fork in the road.
Not a theoretical fork (like life’s decisions), but a real and actual fork in the road where taking the wrong turn could result in becoming lost in the woods without my phone, on tired legs, drenched in my own sweat with a stomach that may or may not cooperate before getting myself to a potty.
In no shape to risk the results of a bad decision the only choice was to wait for the group a couple of minutes behind.
When I saw them I pointed my fingers in opposite directions and proclaimed, “A fork in the road!”
“To the left,” someone said, while gesturing without stopping, the pack’s legs pounding the ground in time and I grateful to follow with others in the lead.
I stayed at the back for the last two miles (actually paired up with a couple doing a 1×1 ratio), but chose to walk most of the way up that horrendous final hill.
And when it was done what I’d given myself was a gift.
The highs and the lows formed a collection of important moments packaged tightly inside the gift of fourteen miles on the hidden back trails of my city. Self esteem was built from completing the endeavor. A hard earned kernel of truth that I can trust the next fork in my road (literal or theoretical) that may or may not be as easy to see and that I might have to follow alone.