Ode to the trails

If I never race again, I would be motivated to stay in shape in order to spend my Sundays chasing after my strong, passionate Impala teammates over the Bay Area trails.

After a low-mileage (and low-energy) week, I met my teammates in Mill Valley this morning to tackle one of the most infamous and difficult trails in the area—the Dipsea Trail. A few of my teammates are running the Dipsea race in a month, so it was a great excuse to rally the herd for a Sunday training run. Plus, there was the promise of waffles at the end. Priorities.

We descended upon the Equator coffee shop, coming from the city, the East Bay, and Marin. Clad in a rainbow of running gear, we greeted each other with sleepy smiles. The lure of the smell of freshly ground coffee was strong, but we began our journey, trotting through town to the trailhead, which was really a staircase. Multiple staircases. So, the running bit hadn’t really started, but we fell into an easy rhythm of chatting between heavy breaths.

Climbing all those stairs only means one thing: descending into the redwoods. I found myself in the middle of the group, watching ponytails swing in front of me and happy chatter coming from behind me.

The trail has very few sections of flat, but they felt luxurious. Weaving through trees and grass (and poison oak), the clean air and exertion and camaraderie began to cleanse me. Even as the trail began its steady ascent towards Cardiac Hill (a name truly apt given the pounding of my heart at the top), I felt light and free for the first time all week. The views from the top on a clear day like today are nothing if not breathtaking, and a group of young girls out for a hike were kind enough to snap a few pictures of us with a blue ocean and green hills as the backdrop.

We continued just far enough to ensure a double-digit run (and to avoid any more climbing), hopping over a snake in the process, before turning around for the return trip.

I may huff and puff on the uphills, but downhills are my jam. There is nothing like barreling down a trail, legs opening up and arms flailing, to get me as close to feeling like flying as I can imagine. My heart and lungs aren’t working as hard so they can replenish, my little legs and feet with my little steps can plummet downhill, I have to focus on each step to make sure I don’t fall… it’s the kind of fun I had as a kid, rolling down a hill or coasting downhill on a bike with my feet in the air in front of me: pure joy.

I am so grateful that I can head out to the trails anytime I want for nature-running-therapy. And as much of a loner as I sometimes am, I am over the moon about having a team of friends to share in the experience. Even if I’m not chatting the entire time, or if I fall ahead or behind, or if I’m breathing too hard to talk, there’s something about running together, especially on the trails, that helps me feel connected to this group.

And the waffles didn’t hurt, either.

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