Should Children Run Endurance Events?

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Every time I post a photo of the Redden kids on Facebook, I see the same type of comments: lots of admiration, some shock, some concern, and some downright anger.

Seth and Sabrina Redden are the proud parents of two unusual kids. Tajh (male, 11) and Teagan (female, 9) are both avid trail and ultra runners. Last year, Teagan ran her first 100K and 100-mile distance. She was nominated for the Arizona 2013 Rookie of the Year Award at mcdowellmountainman.com. Needless to say, her competitors were older than her by a large margin…as they usually are.

Team Redden is so mind-blowingly young and accomplished that Outside Magazine covered them in an article, The Art of Raising Young Ultrarunners.

View Teagan Redden’s race results.

Like the Redden kids’ Facebook page.

The debate as to whether children should be running endurance events rages on. However, it is not an entirely new concept. Children have been running marathons for a while now.

Data from the Twin Cities Marathon shows that between 1982 and 2005, 277 children have crossed the finish line ranging from ages 7 to 17 with finish times from 2:53 to 6:10.

Unfortunately, there is little scientific data on the effects of long distance running on children.

This topic intrigued us enough to chat with Seth and Sabrina Redden as well as a pediatrician on the Natural Running Network Podcast a couple of weeks ago. On the show, we discuss veganism for kids, thermoregulation in children, and a child’s eagerness to please his/her parents.

nevertooyoungtorun

Direct Podcast Link HERE

Here are some things that didn’t make it into the podcast:

Colby Weltland and Ed “The Jester” Ettinghausen

I had hoped to have child prodigy Colby Weltland on the show. Unfortunately, his family was traveling for a race and they were unavailable.

Colby is a 13 year old kid who has already finished several 100-mile races and aspires to be youngest Badwater finisher. I also spoke to his close family friend and pacer, Ed “The Jester”. An accomplished ultra runner, Ed has thousands of miles of experience and has mentored/paced Colby to most of his finishes.

When I asked for his insight, he wrote the following:

Just for more fodder on the subject, I know one of the concerns people have is that running at a young age will do physical and emotional harm to kids. My four kids have never run an ultra, but have run many marathons, running their first one at the ages of 8, 9, 11, and 14 (and that was because she’s a type 1 diabetic, otherwise she would have run her first one at an earlier age).

They’re all young adults now and are just fine, physically and emotionally. My 21-year-old daughter who was 8 at her first marathon just did the Disney World Half Marathon and works for Raw Threads a clothing company that specializes in running attire. She is a vendor at many of the big marathons and she still loves the running world.

I was told by many people that running a marathon at such an early age would damage her growth plates. I feel really bad now, because apparently it did stunt her growth–she’s only 5’11″!

And for me personally, although I didn’t run marathons as a kid, I did run my first two at the age of 17, and three more at the age of 18. Thirty-four years later I set three American age records: 200k, 24-hour, and 6-day, so I don’t think running long distances as a teen hurt me too much. Anyway, just thought I’d share that with you.

Oh, and one more family of young ultra runners. Brandon and Cameron Plate are from Oklahoma. They’re 12 and 13 and have both completed two 100+ mile races. Colby & I and the two of them ran together at Silverton 1,000 and ATY last year. You can find their stats on Ultrasignup as well.

Jester on . . .

Follow Colby’s blog.

Join the Run Jester Run Friends Facebook page.

Remember: There are many great programs out there like Girls on the Run and the 100 Mile Club that help introduce kids to the joy of running. They don’t have to run extreme distances to stay healthy and find a love for the outdoors.

You can check out our other running podcasts at the Natural Running Network HERE.

What are your thoughts? Should children be allowed to race ultras?
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Stronger Now

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I am sprinting downhill through shin-deep, unbroken, soft powder snow. Every step is an effort–like trudging through quicksand. I am on my fifth mile, running home.

I am holding a plank inside an igloo I helped build. My toes are digging into the cold ground and my clothes are covered in hay. My abs are burning.

I am hauling logs down from off the mountain for firewood. I used to carry one big log at a time, but now I can hold two. My steps are sturdier and a little faster.

I am getting stronger.

I have never considered myself to be very strong. On the contrary, I was raised with the cultural belief that men were the protectors, the pickle-jar openers, the only ones capable of lifting. Women belonged in the kitchen.

Interestingly, this didn’t bother me all that much. I could wave off the things I didn’t want to do because they were “too hard”. I didn’t have to carry heavy things or stand for very long. I was comfortable.

When I took up running in my 20s, I grew physically strong enough to challenge those gender stereotypes, but it created friction in my relationship.

Suddenly I could lift more, pull harder, stay on my feet longer than my now-ex boyfriend. This didn’t make me feel proud or happy or liberated. Instead, I felt betrayed. I had invested in this worldview and it had let me down.

Underlying that betrayal was fear. I had always counted on men to protect me–and now it was obvious they couldn’t. They were weaker than me.

It took me some time to shift my gender mindset from one of submission to one of equals. When I figured out how to do that, I no longer needed to be angry when I saw weakness. The expectation that all men were stronger was no longer there.

Men were now free to be themselves without judgement from me, and I was free to raise my personal standards. No one should have the burden of being stronger than me all the times, nor should there be a limit for how strong I can become.

Perhaps you are stronger than me. But if you’re not, that’s ok–I’m still going to be strong just on my own.

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How to Love a Runner

“The hardest part of being in a committed relationship with an endurance athlete is having to redefine normalcy.” (Chronicles of an Endurance Athlete’s Wife)

This was one of my favorite podcasts so far–a candid look into what it takes to love an endurance athlete. The voracious appetite, the disgusting shoes laid out to dry, the hours of absence during which family is not supposed to be worried… how is it that we find partners at all?

On 100 Miles is Not That Far, Stephanie Catudal tells the full story of what it’s like for her to be married to a 115-mile/week athlete, and it’s not always pretty. We discuss her points and add our own experiences to the discussion, including my thoughts on goat-love.

Listen in!

howtolovearunnerDirect Podcast Link HERE

Links to Stephanie’s original work:

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2013: Stats From a Year of Travel Blogging

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 310,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 13 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Being silly in beautiful places = what we did in 2013. Same plan for 2014.

Happy new year, dear readers!

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Q&A Uncensored: Your Chance to Ask Anything

Photo: The breathtaking Bow Lake in Alberta, Canada

Photo: Bow Lake in Alberta, Canada

Two years ago I participated in an online Q&A game via my blog. Because my life has changed so drastically since then, I thought it would be awesome to do it again. Here are the rules I posted two years ago:

You ask me anything. About anything. No question is too weird or strange or stupid or personal. Post your questions in the comment section and I will answer them ALL. It’s that simple! And hopefully fun.

You can ask as many questions as you’d like, and no topic is off limits. Here are the answers to the questions I was asked in 2011:

You asked, I answer! Part I
You asked, I answer! Part II
You asked, I answer! Part III

To get us started, below is a Q&A I did this week for an online publication called Sensa Nostra. They are writing a three-article series on tiny homes and home-free living.

Here’s what they wanted to know:

SN: You gave up a successful writing career in an office to live in an RV and travel the land. Was it difficult giving up all that you’d achieved in your job after working so hard to get there?

VR: On the contrary, I was excited to write for myself as opposed to a news organization or media outlet. I have a journalism degree, and I can write anywhere. I had stories to tell outside of my job and I wanted to write a book. I also never made an obscene amount of money as a writer or editor, so I was used to a very low-budget lifestyle. I felt I had little to sacrifice.

It was harder to convince my boyfriend to give up his job as an electrical engineer for a major biotech company. He has been there for more than 10 years and his income was much higher than mine. There was more for him to lose, and although we both wanted to travel, it was scary to make that jump. We delayed his quitting for several weeks simply because we kept getting cold feet. Once we made the leap, it wasn’t as bad as we imagined.

The experience reminds me of that Indiana Jones scene in the Last Crusade where Jones has to jump across a large chasm and there’s no way he’ll make it. It turned out that after he jumps, there’s actually an invisible bridge. In the same way, we didn’t end up falling into a terrifying abyss, but making that initial jump still took some nerve.

SN: Why did you choose to buy and live in an RV? Did you want to travel, or were you radically changing your life and choosing a minimalist path? Or was it a way to save money once you’d given up your job?

VR: This lifestyle was a dream come true for us. Yesterday, we spent 6+ hours on the Superior Hiking Trail, a 275-mile footpath in Northeastern Minnesota. One month ago, we were running in Alaska. In my old life, I would have spent those days at the office.

We wanted two things when we bought the RV: to travel freely, and to live minimally. Our 22-foot Rialta RV is tiny by most standard. Most people use this RV for day trips or camping, but not for living. I love it because it forces us to keep only what we need and use, and it encourages us to spend more time outdoors.

We also wanted a vehicle small enough to fit into a regular parking spot. We didn’t want to spend any time or money at RV campgrounds. Since we bought it, we have never paid to spend the night anywhere.

SN: Can you tell me more about your day-to-day life in the trailer? Did you expect to be living in this way when you first moved in, or are you constantly discovering many pleasant aspects of this way of life?

VR: We essentially drive from trail to trail. Both my boyfriend and I enjoy trial running, so we visit a lot of national forests, national parks, and state parks. He loves water and I love mountains, so we look for places that combine mountains with waterfalls/streams/lakes.

We have no set plan in our travels and no deadlines. Sometimes we are out in the wilderness all day, and sometimes we find a good wifi spot and settle down to catch up with the rest of the world. Because our wifi time is limited, I spend most of my time pre-loading articles to read later, downloading podcasts I can later listen to offline, or copying emails into documents I can access later. I type the responses when I have more time, and the next time I get wifi, I just send everything off.

We had no idea what to expect when we moved into the RV, so we are constantly learning and making new discoveries. It keeps us on our toes!

SN: Is this a short-term break, or a new way of life?

VR: I don’t see myself ever going back to owning or renting a home, or working a traditional job, but I would never say never. It’s a big world and I still have many more years to live and experiences to experience.

SN: Do you feel that your writing career has actually become even more successful since quitting your office job?

VR: Absolutely, a thousand times over. I finally have the freedom to follow my instincts, write about what I know and love, and dive into research and interviews that truly interest me. My writing has improved drastically, and it is much more personally fulfilling.

SN: What does ‘success’ mean to you? And what do you value most in life?

VR: I love this quote: “Success is the certain knowledge that you’ve become yourself, the person you were meant to be from all time.” – Dr. George Sheehan

To me, that is true success. The freedom to be yourself at all times, never compromising to please a boss or a spouse or society in general.

In life, I most value freedom. That doesn’t translate into everyone being jobless and traveling the world, but it has a lot to do with never feeling like you have to settle. Freedom means being able to construct and live your life on your own terms, whether that is raising a family, starting a business, or working in a career you are passionate about.

I spent so much of my life trying to live on someone else’s terms, and I think many of us do to some extent. Freedom means embracing your own path, whatever the cost.

SN: Have your values changed since moving into the trailer? Do you see the world from another perspective that you’d never previously imagined?

VR: I see the world with much more enthusiasm and excitement. My values–compassion, transparency, and selflessness–have deepened. I feel child-like in my ambitions, like the world is there for my taking.

I can read about a place that sounds interesting, and immediately GO there. I don’t have to put it on hold. I don’t have to ask for vacation time or permission from my family. I don’t have to write it down in a bucket list. I have the freedom to move and travel wherever my whims take me. I feel in complete control of my life–it is truly liberating.

SN: Why do you run? And why do you run ultra-marathons? Was this always your goal?

VR: I fell in love with running in 2007, and when I discovered trail running I never went back to road. I always loved long distances. Ultra running fits well with my personality. It requires a lot of drive, dedication, energy, and mental strength. I love things that are hard and demanding, but low-profile. I love being alone in nature, drinking in the mountains and pushing my body to its limits.

SN: Can you tell me more about barefoot running?

VR: I embraced barefoot running as a way to connect with nature. I love the feeling of mud, bark, soil, and grass under my toes. It goes back to that child-like freedom of running wild, with no cares in the world. It brings me back to that place of bliss.

SN: Are running, writing and living in a trailer all inter-connected for you? Does one influence the other?

VR: They are all things that I love, so in that sense they are inter-connected. I don’t know if I will always live in a trailer. I can just as easily live out of a backpack, or a van, or a bicycle. What matters is mobility and freedom. Writing and running I believe will always be a part of me.

SN: Are there any negative aspects to living your lifestyle?

VR: There are definitely inconveniences. Things like showers, laundry, and chores look very different than they used to, but I can’t say they’re negative. Is rinsing your clothes in a stream more negative than throwing into a washing machine? I think it’s just different.

SN: What does living in this way allow you to do that your old life never could?

VR: Travel full-time.

SN: What are your goals for the future?

VR: I would love to run across El Salvador next year, a distance of approximately 160 miles. I was born in El Salvador and I haven’t been back in years. This will be my way of coming back, making my mark, and reconnecting with a community long-forgotten.

I have a love-hate relationship with my cultural upbringing that drove me to separate myself from Hispanics in the past. My ex used to accuse me of thinking I was “too good” for my culture, but in many ways the cultural values I was raised with damaged me, especially when it came to the role of women and female expectations.

I was raised to be submissive and subservient, always sacrificing my own needs for the men around me. I was also raised to depend heavily on men, both emotionally and financially. My current boyfriend is my first “white” relationship, and the dynamic is very different than what I am used to, and to be honest pretty amazing.

I recently reconnected with my dad after a long time of not speaking. One of the first things he said to me was to thank my boyfriend for “taking good care of me” while I was away from home. I know this is my dad’s way accepting me and my new relationship, so I take it as a positive response. However, it also perfectly reflects what I was raised to believe: that I am useless without a man and incapable of taking care of myself. For the first time in my life, I now have the courage to believe otherwise.

Going back to El Salvador for me would represent a re-birth and a coming out. Kind of like facing an old bully that tormented me for years. I want the country to see who I am and what I have become–that I am so much stronger than they thought I could be and I have bigger balls than most of their men by doing something none of them have dared to attempt. I also want their women and girls to see an example of female strength, courage, and independence. I want them to know they can do whatever the hell they want with their lives.

SN: It’d also be interesting to talk about money – whether you have any, how you earn it and how you use it.  And what your perspectives are on what we ‘need’ and what society says about it all.

We started off our travels with a small base of savings, and then I immediately started working on my first book. Now my book and other writings are my only source of income. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to support our simple lifestyle. I am working on my second book, but it doesn’t at all feel like a job. It’s a labor of love, and I’ve been lucky enough to work because something interests me, not because I need the money. This is the first time in my life I have been able to say that, and it’s a result of living simply, not being rich.

Got more questions for me? Leave a comment below.

tamati

Photo: Flattop Mountain in Anchorage, Alaska

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Black Canyon Trail 100K Race Entry Giveaway

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Aravaipa Running is launching the inaugural Black Canyon 100K this winter, a trail point-to-point ultra from Spring Valley to New River, Arizona. They have generously offered up a free entry for a giveaway ($110 value).

The Coury brothers behind Aravaipa Running are well-known for organizing a series of exceptional races such as Across the Years and Javelina Jundred. Their events are must-dos for anyone who has not yet experienced some Coury magic (and for those who know it well!)

RACE STATS

Date: February 15, 2014
Terrain: Single track, non-motorized jeep trail, old stagecoach route
Start Location: Mayer High School, 17300 East Mule Deer Drive, Mayer, AZ
Finish Location: Emery Henderson Trailhead,  New River Road, 3.0 miles west of I-17

Perks:

  • Well-stocked aid stations every four to eight miles
  • Post-race food (soup, fresh fruit) & socializing

More Info
UltraSignUp Registration Link
Facebook Event Page

TO ENTER

Simply leave a comment below answering the following question:

“What mental trick(s) do you use to dig deep

when you are struggling on a run?”

For additional entries, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or anywhere else online. Each additional share = one extra entry. For example, if you comment below as well as share on Facebook and Twitter, that’s 3 entries. Remember to mention where you shared in the comments below.

The winner will be chosen at random on September 30th and contacted directly.

Good luck!
Round-Color

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Inaugural Man vs Horse Owen’s Peak Trail Marathon and 10-Miler Race Entry Giveaway

Man vs Horse logo Circle

There’s a new race in town, and here’s a free entry up for grabs! The inaugural Man vs Horse Owen’s Peak Marathon (with 10 mile option) is coming to California on October 12th, 2013, with a cash prize for the winner.

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HERE is the UltraSignUp info.
HERE is the race website.

TO ENTER

For a free entry, leave a comment below answering the following question:

What is the most important thing you have learned about running in the past 12 months?

For additional entries, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or anywhere else online. Each additional share = one extra entry. For example, if you comment below as well as share on Facebook and Twitter, that’s 3 entries. Remember to mention where you shared in the comments below.

The winner will be chosen at random on August 9th and contacted directly.

Good luck!

Photo from the race course

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Silverton 1000 Race Entry Giveaway

Silverton-1000-Website-HeaderI am honored and excited to offer one free entry to the Silverton 1000 in Colorado at the end of August.

The winner will receive a free entry to the race option of their choice. Choose from: 24 Hours, 48 Hours, 72 Hours, or 6-Day Challenge. Value = $145 to $400.

This race takes place at Kendall Mountain Lodge in Silverton, Colorado where race director Mark Hellenthal is doing an amazing job at drumming up excitement for things to come.

Some perks include:

  • Quality shirts & beanies
  • Free Hokas to the winners
  • Trail Runner magazine subscriptions up for raffle
  • Mind-blowing 400- and 500-mile belt buckles for the truly insane!
  • … and don’t forget the automatic entry to the 1000 Mile Challenge for all 6-day runners (you’ll have 18 days to cover 1000 miles)!

Learn more on the UltraSignUp Registration page HERE.

Visit the race website HERE.

Visit the race Facebook page HERE.

TO ENTER

Simply leave a comment below answering the following question:

“What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you during a race?” 

For additional entries, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or anywhere else online. Each additional share = one extra entry. For example, if you comment below as well as share on Facebook and Twitter, that’s 3 entries. Remember to mention where you shared in the comments below.

The winner will be chosen at random on July 19th and contacted directly.

Happy Trails!

silvertonrun

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Unfair Advantages in Trail Racing and Don’t Be a Douche

In elementary school, I had a teacher who gave the same response to every child who opened their mouth to complain. “Life’s not fair,” she would chirp with a grin, thrilled to be the first to inform us of this great life truth. The offending child would roll his eyes, and know his argument would fall on deaf ears. I can still hear that teacher’s voice in my head whenever I encounter complaints.

I heard her voice again when I read this month’s Trail Runner Symposium topic:

What constitutes an “unfair advantage” in a trail race, and what—if anything—should be done to even the playing field?

It’s not a topic I had previously considered, and frankly I was surprised at its origin. Associate Editor Yitka Winn wrote that the topic was “inspired by a recent letter to the editor we received complaining about the ‘unfair advantage’ of using a pacer in ultras.”

Huh?? Someone got their panties in a knot about pacers?

But when I started looking, I realized that “unfair advantages” were everywhere. Let’s explore this, shall we?

First, it’s important to consider that while there are advantages, not all advantages are unfair. For example, if one runner takes caffeine and another runner does not, the caffeinated runner may have an advantage. However, it’s not fair because: a) It is not against the race rules b) anyone can do it.

Here is a simple flow chart to determine whether or not an advantage is unfair:

LifesNotFair
Now here is where it gets tricky. Once you’ve determined that you have an unfair advantage on your hands, that does not necessarily mean that you have a good case.

Here is a simple flow chart to determine whether or not you should take your unfair advantage argument to the authorities.

ToProtestOrNot(*meaningful)

Sidenote: You may want to consider that the closer you are to the back-of-the-pack, the douchier you sound when complaining about unfair advantages.

Here is a graph for reference:

UnfairAdvantageGraphSidenote 2: There are some cases where a runner will complain about the “unfair advantages” given to runners with disabilities. These may include things like hiking poles, pacers, guide dogs, or “bouncy” prosthetics. (Yes, this really happens.) If you complain about these perceived unfair “advantages,” you risk a higher likelihood of being placed in the special category of “Extreme Asshat.” Sightings are rare, but not as rare as you’d like.

The bottom line is that there will always be someone who has an advantage over you in a trail race, and if you’re the type of person who spends time trying to figure out which details are unfair, I fear you may be in for some needless mental agony and resentment.

The solution for me has been to compete with a past version of myself. I hope to be better than yesterday, and tomorrow I will push myself even further. That’s fair enough.

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This post is part of the TrailRunner Blog Symposium.

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The Pacific Northwest: Finding Humility at the Waterfall

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Cascade Falls, Pacific Coast Trail

 

It is late morning on the Pacific Coast Trail—a sunny but cool day under the vast shade of the forest. We are in Oregon, a few miles away from the Bridge of the Gods, where the PCT crosses and continues past the Washington border. We’ve been on the trail all morning, and are now taking a break at Cascade Falls, less than a mile off the PCT. Apart from a lady taking pictures with an elaborate tripod and camera set up, we are all alone. Shacky throws a stick for Ginger while I soak my legs in the water and rub off the layers of dirt that cling to my calves.

Suddenly, I turn my head at a noise that sounds like a car. Huh? It can’t be. We’re on the PCT! But when I look up, I do indeed see a car inching its way up the trail. Although the dirt road is wide enough for a small car, it’s not a road that goes anywhere—it dead ends at the falls. I don’t even know where a car could have been coming from? These people must be very, very lost.

I mentally prepare to give some directions, but the car doesn’t stop. Nobody jumps out. They see the falls, the rocks, and the dead end, but they keep driving up to the water, spreading noise and fumes and blocking off the entire trail. What the hell are these people doing??

Then I understand—they’re trying to drive as close as possible to the falls so they can either see the view from their car, or walk as little as is humanly possible. On the final steep and rocky incline (for a car, anyway), they give up and park it. Out of the car stumble a trashy looking couple with their kid. I can’t believe they drove here.

The kid, about six years old, is in heaven. She runs right up to the falls and wants to play. The mother wanders off while the dad stands to the side and smokes a cigarette. They stay for about three minutes before calling the kid back to the car. After they leave, I am horrified to discover the dad’s discarded cigarette butts all along the water.

Most of the time, the people we meet on the trail are happy, respectful, and kind, but every once in a while we meet people who make me wonder if they deserve to be there. When the trails feel like home, I find myself feeling more protective of them and highly disgusted by those who aren’t respecting the land, or didn’t exert any effort to get there.

It used to be that you couldn’t see the views if you didn’t put in the miles or make the climb on your own two feet, but that’s not always the case in the modernized wilderness of today’s tourist hot spots. Sometimes I wonder about the balance between getting more people out in nature, and making it just a little too easy for them.

The douchey couple incident stayed with me for a few days, scratching on my brain like fingernails on a chalkboard. What the hell is wrong with people?? I huffed to myself as I ran up a hill. Those guys should not even be allowed in nature!

But then I thought about their young daughter, and the three minutes of joy she had playing at the base of that waterfall. I wonder if she’ll grow up to remember her fleeting moment as “that day we went hiking,” and seek out more days like it. Perhaps someday this trail will see her running through it, soaking her legs in the falls, and feeling protective of its beauty.

More importantly, who was I to judge who “deserved” to be on the trail? Was Trail Police really a job I was cut out for? It seemed to take my mind to a place I couldn’t enjoy—one of judgment, condescension, and perpetual annoyance.

A few days later, I was running alone up the Wahkeena Falls trail on the scenic Columbia River Gorge. We had already run that morning, but I couldn’t get enough of this place. Shacky was resting in the RV, so I started off with just Ginger. Before long, she was slowing down in the heat of the day and the perpetual climbs, so I took her back to the RV and started for the third time on my own.

The falls themselves are a short walk from the parking lot, up a paved “trail”. Most people just hike to the lookout for pictures, but if you continue up the trail, there are more lookouts and waterfalls as the road becomes significantly steeper, no longer paved, and more technical. That’s where I was heading.

After getting my miles in, I was bounding back down the switchbacks and hit the crowds at the waterfall again. Taking up most of the space was an extremely obese family of four. The two pre-teen children were huge, and their parents looked like they might roll away. I stopped to watch them more closely. Did they look like the kind of people who would leave junk food wrappers all over the trail, or flick a cigarette over the falls? Did they “deserve” to be there?

The longer I watched them, the bigger the smile grew on my face. They were elated. All of them were looking at the falls like it was the hidden wonder of the world. The kids shouted and laughed while the mom stuck her arm out for a selfie photo on her camera phone, her face beaming with gratitude.

I was humbled.

I had seen this waterfall three times already. Where was my beaming face? Where was my boundless joy?

I was polishing off a 50-mile week to get to this point, and these guys had just walked a few hundred feet, yet we were both in the same place. In the end, I had advanced no further and done no better. We were both on the same trail, both hot and sweaty, and both of us had gotten out of bed that day and put on our running shoes. Over food or comfort or television, we had both chosen the waterfall.

John Muir once wrote that nature should be explored by “anyone with the right manners of the wilderness,” and I think that sometimes the wilderness itself extracts that respect from us, whether or not we have experience giving it.

Oregon so far has been my favorite state to run in. I have been both humbled and exalted by its towering trees, lush forests, and clean air. The state motto reads: alis volant propriis. It means, She flies with her own wings. 

What if we are all just flying the trails in our own time, with our own wings, in different stages of our relationship with the wilderness? Some of us are just starting out, while others are growing old on these trails.

That obese family may not have walked to many waterfalls, but they knew what to do in the presence of this one. Maybe their journey was just starting.

Maybe—in some way—we all deserve to be here. Or more likely, none of us deserve this. Yet day after day, by some great mercy, the sun still rises and the water still falls.

For all of us.

Pacific Coast Trail

Pacific Coast Trail

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Answering the Call of the North

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Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

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