For my run today I agreed to go with some friends to South Mountain so that we could practice our ‘hill’ work. The road we chose is 7 miles up and 7 miles back down. I know. . . what was I thinking?!
We left at 6:30 and headed West. I needed to get a long run in, but I hadn’t ran anything but flat roads since September. I was a little apprehensive, but felt prepared with my gear at least. I had my Shuffle, my bright yellow visor, my fuel pack full of goodies and I was sure to wear layers so I could add or take away accordingly. We finally arrived at our starting point and got out to stretch. I was anxious to get running so that I could warm up. It was 40 degrees and I was freezing!
It was just barely gettting light and I could see a couple of cyclists making their way up the mountain. Other than them, we had the whole road to ourselves. Apparently running up a steep mountain early on a Saturday morning doesn’t appeal to many people. Strangly, I can’t think of a better way to start the weekend. (and yes, I am serious this time)
I had stayed up late to finish reading a book and was worried that today would be a very tough run, but after the first mile I warmed up and was actually a little ahead of my friends. I was liking the tempo I was running, so I turned up the music and tried to focus on my form instead of the daunting hills ahead of me. I had added some more music to the iPod the night before, (thanks btw to all of you who helped with this!) and the order of the songs seemed to coincide perfectly with the terrain. I was needlessly concerned that some of my selections were going to slow me down, instead I eased through all of the difficult stretches.
After about 5 miles I decided to find somewhere to stop and re-fuel. I saw a small lookout area ahead and made my way there. I was in an area of the canyon where I could see quite a bit of road behind me, and my eyes followed the road through various curves of the mountain even lower. I was surprised that I couldn’t see either of my girlfriends. Wow, was I really that far ahead? That is a total first for me, I am never in the lead! I had another first on the ridge as well; there are no bathrooms at the top and I had been drinking water and Accelerade all morning. . .
I didn’t want to lose my momentum, so I ate 2 bites of my power bar, stretched my legs a little and got back into a rhythm. I had been thinking of food not music, and was surprised that I was half-way through “Lovestoned”. It caught me off guard and I think I even laughed out loud. I was originally going to remove this song from my playlist, but didn’t. (why? click here) I’m so grateful that I heard this particular song today.
It’s amazing how fast life can flip flop on you. Nothing could have brought me down from was what I was feeling now. Was it just “runners high”? or something bigger? I didn’t care, I just didn’t want it to end. I felt invincible yet humbled at the same time. An overwhelming sense of self encompassed me and for the first time I felt like my life had direction and purpose. I had been at my lowest just a short time ago and everyday was a fight to pull myself out of despair. My relationships, my patience, my trust, my resolve and even my faith were all tested in those few months. But now, the happiness I felt was so strong I thought my body might not be able to contain it and it would burst out at any second.
What a different place I was in now compared to just a few weeks ago. Here I was surrounded by a landscape that was exactly how I always imagined a desert to look complete with saguaros, sagebrush and that beautiful blue Arizona sky. The only thing that seemed out of place were the huge radio towers at the top of the mountain.
I was still grinning as I reached the summit. I know it had only been 7 miles, but I was beaming! I had overcome a lot more than this little mountain and now I knew that for sure. I know these moments are very rare, so I tried to concentrate on every little detail of this day and commit it to memory. I wanted to take it and tuck it deep inside where it can’t be lost, but I also wished that there was a way to hold on to it and share it with everyone.
The summit was a circle of black asphalt and nothing else, but the view was incredible! It was not really the scenery, but it was that you were able to see forever in almost every direction. I am still too unfamiliar with Arizona to know exactly where I was looking, but it seemed to be the entire East Valley, and all of downtown Pheonix. I had the strangest urge to throw my hands over my head and yell something. Instead, I walked the guardrail to take in more of the view, and waited for my friends.
I was standing there alone, on top of a mountain in the middle of the desert with no one as far as the eye could see. . . and I felt anything but lonely.