Distance running is a journey that invites, if not demands, considerable self-reflection. I suspect it is why many of us gratefully push past hour two of a run on a regular basis - as the miles pile on, you soon exhaust the relentless hamster wheel of work/kid/life self-smalltalk that consumes our brains day-to-day, freeing your mind to pursue more meaningful questions unshackled. The longer the run, and the farther into nature you explore, the deeper you permit yourself to dig into the soul and find what awaits. If the journey is long enough, even the most dormant of demons will pop up and join you for a few miles. Distance will always invite demons with arms wide open.
Distance can wear many faces too, I have recently learned. A few months ago, I was given a career opportunity one sees rarely in a lifetime – come join a growing company of amazing mobile rock stars that find themselves in the eye of the greatest technology shift the world has ever seen. Just one catch, the commute is a tad long…about 2,245 miles to be exact. To do the job right, while keeping the family as happy as possible, meant working in Pittsburgh, PA, and living in Woodside, CA. Christi, my wife and career consigliore of 20+ years, sized it up similarly, and with the GAME ON nod of her head, distance invited itself into our lives in a whole new dimension.
In retrospect, it was a bit foolish of me to think that long runs might somehow prepare me for the solitude that creeps up when you work away from home. When you run, you invite solitude into your life, and in that sense control it. When you spend 4-5 nights a week in a hotel room away from your family, your bed, and the home trails that keep you grounded, solitude soon controls you.
Not at first, of course. In the first few nights, you secretly revel in your newfound freedom. No snoring pugs hogging the covers, no screaming kids needing baths mid-meltdown, not having to ask permission for a quick run….heck, you don’t even have to pick up the towels. For the first week or two, you feel like pinching yourself every morning. And THEN you order room service! Word.
But by week three, you begin to miss those familiar burdens. The snoring dog who warms your legs, assuring you with the harmonious purr of a dozen face folds that you are at home with your pack. The kids that always need you do actually need you, and their absence forces the realization of how fulfilling that truly is. The hotel room that snaps back to its sterile and apathetic state of cleanliness every day at 10am begins to feel like a bad looping video or a glitch in the Matrix, adding a touch of anxiety to the quiet. With all the time on your hands, the solitude consumes you.
The trails, however, are always good for reprieve and it didn’t take long for me to find the gold and orange hills of Schenley Park, Frick Park, and the river trails just outside of my regular hotel. The autumn colors of Pittsburgh are breathtaking, and I soon found a morning ritual of getting lost in the hallows as the morning sun chased away the frost and filled the campuses with young and vibrant smiles. For a few hours a day, it was a much-needed sanctuary.
|(Frick Park, Pittsburgh, PA)
Then in a single moment of clarity, all that anxiety disappeared. After a Saturday morning 10-miler in the hills of Woodside, I returned home to see Christi and the girls through the front window laughing, having breakfast, and playing with the dogs. They were happy. Like, crazy happy. In fact, I was the only one choosing to be anything less than gleeful. ME. BY CHOICE.
A beat, a pause, a breath…aahhh. A “long run revelation” for sure. I am out of The Pit.
Pittsburgh greets me with a smile now too these days. My coworkers have become friends, a little retail therapy got me a fresh and Pittsburgh-ready wardrobe (wakka-ow!) to explore the neighborhoods, and I no longer need a map to find my favorite trails even in the dark. Family vacations are revered with renewed anticipation, and I find myself delighted with the warmth of California winter weather that weeks ago felt like it chilled to the bone. My runs have again become a place to explore, not escape. Life, once more, seems full of potential and poetry as far as I can dream.
|(New city duds - it's all about layers!)
Kiss your lovies, everyone. See you on the home trails, East or West.