January 11 2018
A runner shares a personal essay documenting her years as "the runner" in rural South Dakota.
I’m in Santa Cruz, California this week to cover the XTERRA Pacific Championship off-road triathlon. I’m also here to catch up with old friends, as I was lucky enough to call this beachside haven home for the better part of two decades. I spent some time in Wilder Ranch State Park this morning, and the memories of the hundreds – if not thousands – of runs I’ve done on those trails came at me in a torrential and wonderful flood.
Isn’t it incredible how memories can be so firmly connected to a place? Wilder is where my now ex-husband and I shared our first date (a run) and where a year and a half later he proposed. It’s where I sought comfort and solace when my father passed away – I even remember the exact emotionally charged songs I was listening to at specific points on the trail as I simultaneously ran and sobbed, saying my own sort of goodbye. I trained for multiple marathons and two Ironman triathlons on the dirt fire roads and challenging singletrack trails in Wilder. Over the years I saw bobcats, coyotes, wild boar, snakes and even once a majestic mountain lion (I was thrilled, if petrified). More than anything, I spent countless moments being in the moment in that place – enjoying the pure pleasure of running on a hot and dusty path, sun beating on my shoulders and ocean air filling my lungs. It’s a magical spot indeed, and though I moved away several years ago it remains one of my favorite places to run on the entire planet. Refreshing my memories with a return visit was pure joy.
Where is your favorite place to run – and why? Is it a place that makes you feel at home, at peace, in touch with yourself? Is it a place that calms you, providing an escape from the pace of an ever-frenzied schedule? I’m reminded, having visited Wilder Ranch once more, of the importance of finding a spot near my current home where I feel equally whole and happy. I know it’s out there.