I’ve been a runner basically since I was born. Skinny. Energetic. Can’t sit still. Love to run.
I’ve also always been obsessed with art all my life. Sketching. Painting. Love to draw.
Along the way in life, these two interests converged. I love to draw runners.
Often it is in moments of idle time that an idea comes to mind. Such was the case yesterday during a meeting. I clandestinely drew a pair of runners up in the foothills of a mountain range.
That image draws on experiences of running in the mountains of Colorado during a pre-season cross country training trip. The next year we traveled to Wyoming to train in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park.
The romance of those trips exceeded the relative comfort. Without altitude acclimation, I well recall training with a thick headache those first couple days in the mountains. We never ran easy either. It was hard hard hard up the hills and hard hard hard down them. That’s how we ran all the time. Even in the mountains.
18 mile journey
At one point we left from Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons to run up the trail to Lake Solitude. That was 6000 to 9000 feet. Thus it was a 3000 foot climb during a climb of nine miles, and a 3000 foot drop coming down. I don’t know which was harder. I think the latter.
At Jenny Lake, we all paused a bit, stuck our toes in the frighteningly cold water and turned around to run back down.
We had no water to drink the entire way. That’s how we did it back then. And we knew better than to drink from a stream. There were signs that warned of giardia, the microbe that can make you deathly sick, on all the trailheads.
Eighteen miles at altitude with nothing to drink is a pretty rough run. Yet the mountain air carried us through with its clarity. The excitement of running those trails through deep green woods never really faded. Well, actually I cried a little with about two miles to go. My thighs were locked tight and killing me after seven curling miles of descent.
I was so glad to get back to camp that day.
Waiting for you
My wife and I are headed out to Colorado for a long weekend coming up in October after her Ironman. This is a bit like a little honeymoon, so we are not going to do any hard trail running together. That’s not our goal. But I may find an hour to give it a go with a couple friends who live there when she’s finishing up a work project near Denver. The locals always know the best places to run.
It’s also true that the mountains are always waiting for you. Sure, they don’t really care whether you live or die, so you have to be smart and careful out there. But even mountains aren’t eternal. They are either pushed into being by giant tectonic movements or shoved into the sky by deep volcanic forces. Their fate from then on is to weather and crumble and deteriorate. The earth will somehow absorb or replace them.
It is ours to encounter mountains in their present state, and absorb their power for all we’re worth. Then we draw on those experiences to understand humility and wonder in our real lives.