It feels like cheating so early in the morning. It feels like I am doing something naughty or defiant as I tie up my running shoes. And maybe that’s part of the appeal. As I quietly get dressed, both cats barely open one eye to see if I’m up to anything interesting. Satisfied that I’m not, they go back to sleep.
The world is so still in the early morning light as I drive across the flats, traveling the ribbon of highway that cuts across farmland and into the woods. I’m moving forward more out of habit than being fully aware of what I’m doing or where I’m going. I like to think of myself as a morning-person, but this is a ridiculous hour. My brain pleads to turn around and go back to bed.
I pull into the parking lot, peel myself out of the car, wipe sleep from my eyes, and am welcomed by the incredible array of greens that have replaced the grey of city streets. Any doubts I had have quickly disappeared. I test out the road with legs still soft from slumber and inhale the cool, crisp air. I take a deep breath, slowly exhale, and close my eyes. I am expecting silence but instead there is a cacophony of sound. There is no mechanical hum or any sounds of human life, but instead a natural orchestra in glorious crescendo.
I hear the sound of the breeze, the staccato snap of insect buzz, and the bird-songs that seamlessly flow from one solo to another, complimenting each with playful repartee. I walk gently, as if I might disturb this private concert, but I have come for a run and soon the sound of my breathing and the thumping of my heart drown it out as I pick up the pace.
Delicate little leaves flash their underbelly, dancing on the white skeletal branches. The early sunlight reflects off the lily pads in the still of dark waters. The low-lying grasses turn to whisper secrets, and the sun cracks through the shadowy forest, painting the road in sporadic beams of light. The road heaves and twists past mountain flowers that open towards the sky. I run past cattails and skunk cabbage, and I catch shadows shift in the corner of my eye. My shoulders relax as I make my way to the little bridge where the clear waters flow underneath.
I have left the woods behind me, and the cows and horses in open fields turn their heads to watch me as I relentlessly continue on. They blink slowly, munch on their cud, and then ignore me. The butterflies and dragonflies come out to play and zip by. The blue mountains give backdrop to the birds on the wire as I pass a small pond where ducks and turtles laze about in quiet repose.
Over another bridge, with its creaking and worn planks of wood, I pass canola fields blowing in golden waves. The natural world overwhelms me. I can do nothing but surrender. I conquer the long miles without being aware of where I am or what time of day it is.
As much as this run has been both physically and mentally invigorating, I am ready to go home to my waking family, have some strong black coffee and rejoin the world. I drive home feeling like I have somehow done battle. But, like any adventure, I am both happy to have gone and happy to return.