Monday, December 31, 2012

The End of the World As We Know It - Winter Solstice Run

"You ran on the final solstice?!" demanded the shimmering shape of Bolon Yokte, the Mayan god of destructive creation.

"I wouldn't so much call it a run. More like a fast stumble through the woods..." I began. I was a bit confused about where I was, and why exactly I was lying face down in the dirt.

"Silence!" snapped Bolon Yokte. Looking disgusted, he sat on a nearby log and began tapping his nine feet impatiently on the dusty ground.

"You are an impertinent mortal. I must contemplate your fate." The last couple of words seemed to trail off as Boln Yokte's body shimmered in the darkness, slowly transforming to a shapeless, glowing fog.

The glowing fog bulged and expanded wildly, a time lapse Summer thunderhead in miniature. I shook my head to clear my seemingly blurry vision, only to have the imposing figure of Zeus emerge from the chaotic mists.

"I once knew a mortal like you, determined to outwit fate and to cheat death itself" boomed Zeus. "I would punish you as I did Sisyphus, but I see you have already chosen to punish yourself. Run little man. Run!"

So it was that I found myself lying face down in the dirt, having fallen only a few steps beyond the trailhead. I had planned this run to celebrate the Winter solstice, my favorite holiday of the year. To me, the solstice marks the true start of the new year. The days slowly get longer and the hope of Spring begins to replace the cool embrace of Fall and Winter in my mind. The solstice is the promise of new beginnings.

In the coming year, I promised myself I would be a better and smarter runner. I would have fewer goals and stop placing so much importance on measurable "improvement". I would run to enjoy friendships, to embrace nature, and to achieve more inner peace. I would cheat failure by simply slowing down.

Who knew irony would taste like trail dirt?

I'm not a law breaker by nature. Well, I don't break laws I think serve the greater good. My sense of duty for upholding the social contract puts too large a burden on my conscience. But I'm also a bit of a libertarian at heart. I figure if you aren't doing anything to hurt anyone else, you should be allowed to do it. So, I spun my decision to join Ryan on a planned illegal midnight run through "East Mud" park as a sort of civil disobedience. I was hurting no one and simply pursuing my own happiness.

Never one to shy away from a social run, I invited every runner I knew to join me and Ryan, expecting no one to actually show up. And that would have been fine, but I was pleased when a couple of others (Jay and Aline) showed up to join us. Of course, having more runners along to help drag my broken carcass out of the woods is always good.

This was my first night run of any sort, which was partially why I had agreed to run. I figured the practice would be invaluable if things fell apart during my planned adventure in the 40 mile Uwharrie Mountain Run, and I somehow found myself walking to the finish after nightfall. Eating dirt in the first few steps of the single track portion of the run was a good lesson. Pay attention. Be mindful.

The remainder of the run was uneventful. Our little group marked the end of the solstice with shots of cheap cinnamon liquor smuggled in by Jay. We ran under the light of the half moon for many miles sharing some quiet laughs and easy conversations along the way. Simply a gorgeous run, and one I vow to experience again.