I had an amazing three hour run along the border of Apache Creek Wilderness. This is one of my favorite reasons for being here. It was a perfect wilderness run complete with rocks, water, wildlife and solitude. Saw an Arizona Black Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis cerberus); I nearly stepped on it but it stayed mellow (as is its nature.) Didn't even rattle.
A large bull elk crashed off the trail followed by the dogs; a red-tailed hawk circled above and landed on a large boulder; collard lizards (Crotophytus collaris) scurried out of the way of our feet.
Ruin tank still had some nice water, possibly from the last rainfall and the dogs got a good swim.
Before dropping down into Hyde creek I saw this cool view of Juniper Mesa with a leaning agave stalk.
One of my favorite flowers, Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii)...
Back at the truck with the boys.
Our bodies are meant to move like this; we are meant to run. We are built for it; lungs, heart, legs and spine. Since I have been running 4-5 times a week, I am a healthier and happier human than I have ever been. My life has always been great, and now it is greater. I am letting my body do what it wants to do. Long, fast downhills; short, strong uphills; even, rhythmic flats. The magic comes after I've been running about an hour; the insights, the creativity, successful resolutions of perceived problems, the joy of being present. It flows over me and carries me along; the "high" lasting up to 24 hours after the run.
In one month some friends and I will be doing a long distance run on Hopi land. The Paatuwaqatsi (Water is Life) run will be thirty magical miles through ancient villages and past sacred springs. The run will raise awareness of the water issues facing the Hopi today. Bucky Preston (founder of the run) says: “This was something that I had always wanted to do for many years. We are forgetting our Hopi values. We are forgetting to help each other out. I want to see that effort return to our community. Putting Hopi life values and teaching at the forefront is the purpose of the run. Why are we taught to run early in the morning? Because running not only strengthens you physically, it strengthens you spiritually. A runner would take one of the many foot trails from the village in the early morning to a spring, take a drink from the spring and sprinkle himself with the cold water. This gave that person strength and provided healing for any ailments. Everything at Hopi involves water—water is life. Now, water is being abused and is depleting. In some places, it is gone and I want to bring awareness to the people.”
Okay, I run this route several times a week. I get to a certain point and I feel I am being watched; maybe I am. I call the dogs closer and they run, one on either side of me. Down through an arroyo, over a boulder, along a dry stream bed. No trails through this part of the run, I just float along the pinyon juniper woodlands feeling like a deer. Light and leaping, over a downed tree, ducking under overhanging branches. I pick my way along in the shadow of Juniper Mesa. I feel I am being watched; always in this part, eyes watching me.
I can make an educated guess; the only thing that would watch me run through this land is a mountain lion. They are so hunted here (by dogs) that they will flee or hide in trees at the sound or smell of a dog. The fear has been passed down from generation to generation; they associate dogs with death by gun or arrow. Sad, but for me running alone it is what keeps me alive. I am running after all, looking like a brown deer in their hunting grounds. They're not just sitting around waiting to prey on people. They are extremely shy creatures. They just want their deer meat so they can get on with what they do best: sleep, mate and raise babies. But... if all the humans have shot their deer and moved into their territory, and they are really hungry, a human might look pretty tasty (especially a small brown one leaping through the forest feeling like a deer.)
And then I see it. Not the lion, but the deer (carcass) tucked up under a juniper. Not 15 feet from where I am running in the dry creek bed. It looks like it has been there maybe two weeks or less. Legs, spine and pelvis are strewn in a 10 foot diameter. Barely attached to the spine is a skull with a gorgeous set of antlers. There is debris covering some parts, but the majority has been devoured already. I look around, call the dogs closer, and attempt to pull the skull free. I see that the attack must have come from the back of the skull; it pulls free easily.
So, perhaps I have been being watched. O well, I run with possible watchers every day out here; it's part of the package. This is where I fit in; the wild landscape and its great curving embrace.
I run home with the skull and my family thinks I am crazy. The antlers make great beads and buttons, but for now the skull hangs on my garden fence. I see it every day and it serves as a reminder of the wildness of this land.
I never intended to start running. I began doing long-distance hikes and solo backpacking trips shortly after high school. In college, after leading a 3-week backpacking “orientation” course, I ran my first and only trail race. Six miles through Granite Mountain Wilderness. I ran it in Tevas and won the women’s division. Throughout college, I biked a little, walked/hiked a lot, and ran every now and then. The exhilaration is what hooked me. The times I ran were few and far between, but powerful. I have run in moccasins, Tevas, Chacos, flip-flops and bare feet. I ran when the feeling arose and walked again when I got out of breath. I never ran on roads; only trails; only wild; always alone.
Late in 2009, I made some major dietary changes. I took gluten, dairy and eggs out of my diet with profound results. I felt better than I had in...well, ever! I had always enjoyed what I though was excellent health with only a few minor annoyances I attributed to age. After removing the above mentioned foods from my diet, I felt like I could do anything. My head was clearer; I felt more organized, less emotionally driven, stronger in all ways; I felt alive and AWAKE. I felt like running.
It came over me like a rogue wave. I wanted to run and I wanted to do it every day.
I started running just after the Winter Solstice 2009, one and one-half months after going gluten free. Kevin had been reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (a great read!) He gave it to me and I devoured it. I felt so affirmed. Yes! That was why I always felt so alive and “right on” during and after running. I am meant to run.
Everything feels better when I run, my body, my mind, my spiritual connection to everything. So it began...
I run every day I can, sometimes 2 times a week, sometimes 5. I usually cover between 20 and 30 miles a week. My immediate goal is to do (at least) two 10 mile runs a week with two or three shorter runs in between. I change my routes often, but they are always in the mountains, on the mesas, in the canyons, along creeks and through meadows. I run out my door and keep going; Just me, the dogs and the eyes of the wild ones.