While there are tons of times I miss calling you, it’s never more frequent or more desperate than after a good trail run.
I ran a race Saturday that started in 2007. It occurred to me that if my first “attempt” at running in 2006 has been more successful – and not ended in an 8-hour marathon where I ran barely 10 of the 26 miles – I might have discovered trail running sooner. While there are things in my life every day that I hate you’re missing, I really feel strongly that you would have enjoyed my adventures trail running. I like to think you might have even joined me on some of them, although you were not a big fan of running distances longer than a 5K. You still loved hiking mile after mile and you were always planning when you’d finally take a go at the Appalachian Trail.
If you didn’t get into running the trails with me, I definitely would have taken you out to hike my favorite spots on the Mountain. I would have shown you Natural Well and Stone Cuts. Panther Knob (in the winter when you can see through the trees) and Warpath Ridge. I would have taken you along the Old Railroad Bed trails which I just discovered yesterday, and I would have made you hike up Waterline with me.
I know you loved spending some time up at Monte Sano when you came to visit, but you would have fallen in love with it like I have if I had discovered trail running before you died.
You would have also love the logistics of trail races. You thought my brother’s triathlons were so interesting, and even volunteered with him at a race or two. You were the first one who told me about strippers! (The kind that rip wet suits off of swimmers during a triathlon, of course.) I think you would have loved hearing about where they put flags on the course, how they stock aid stations, and big ribbons tied across trees to tell you which way NOT to go. (You would have glad those were there since you knew all to well my horrible natural sense of direction.) I think Saturday’s course changes and Mandatory Sharpie Use would have cracked you up. I’m certain you would have come out to these local trail races, if work permitted, just to give you an excuse to be in the woods and watch others enjoy it. I think you would have volunteered if you could have, just to be part of the action.
I also think you would have loved all of my trail running friends. You would have been fascinated to see so many people from so many walks of life, out there getting filthy and muddy running across the mountain. You would have sat at the finish line with me, cheering on every brave soul that made it up Death Trail. You would have been amazed to find how many were parents, or retired. It would be hard for you to believe that on Monday, some of these women wore makeup and got their nails done. That some of the men would be donning suits and clean shoes. The people element would have really interested you – to see that on a Saturday in the woods there were so many different types of people playing in the mud. It would have reminded you again how much you loved Huntsville.
And you would have just loved talking to all of my trail running friends. So many smart and funny and wonderful people in this little community, and you would have been so happy that I had found them. You would be shocked at how fast some of them are and you would be amazed at some of their stories of other longer and harder races they had done. You would have thought us all insane, but you would have read every race report I wrote and any of the ones I sent you from other local runners. You would have logged the lessons learned for your trip on the AT some day.
And I really hope you would have run with me sometime. You would have been faster than me on the road, your 5K time was a pretty consistent 25 minutes, but I like to think we would have been good trail running buddies. I do a lot of fast hiking on the tough uphills and I think I would have finally made up for all the times you took me hiking as a child and I whined and moaned about never getting breaks. I don’t take breaks on trail runs, Dad – I hope that shocks you as much as it does me.
Even though I whined about breaks when we would hike and camp, you still helped foster the love of the woods that is so strong today. My Sunday trail runs are a necessity since my time in the woods is as much of a therapy session as I could make with an actual therapist. I just love my hours surrounded by the trees and on the overlooks and through the mud…and you gave me that. You raised me camping and as an adult I have manifested that into trail running; and my time in the woods makes me miss you most of all.
I love you, Dad. It’s hard to believe it has been five years since I heard your voice.