In my past posts I have mentioned how running helps me to see the beauty in the world. It has enhanced the perception of how I see, hear, and feel my surroundings. One has to be willing to receive what is being offered and give consent to the change it wants to make within you; I am more than willing. This trail run fit the bill in every sense of what I wanted to experience from a run and I was over the moon to have the opportunity. I read that these views were amongst the most beautiful in the world; something that no runner should miss. I was well aware of what I was in for, my frequent visits over the years prepared me for this and I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning waiting to unwrap all the beautiful packages!
This awe inspiring trail run took place on my old stomping grounds, Minniewaska State Park; a place where I spent many weekends with friends swimming, hiking, eating, drinking, and enjoying life. This would become a new adventure that I was excited to add my to portfolio of Minniewaska memories and experiences!
Since this race had a 6:30pm start time, I decided it was best to take a half day from work to prep myself to make sure I was hydrated and fueled thoroughly. Unfortunately one of my favorite run buddies was not able to make it, but she was kind enough to sign over her registration to a new run buddy I met at work and he was kind enough to except the invitation.
I was so concerned that the 350+ registered racers would create a huge hindrance entering into the park so I made sure to get there extra early. Our 5pm arrival allowed us a smooth entry way into the park and gave ample time to fuel, relax, and use the porta potties- several times prior to start off.
As we were called and corralled into place, my excitement began to heighten. Brett (my work run buddy) and I made our way through the masses; we wanted to be as far back of the pack as possible.
3-2-1…..GOOOO!!!!!!!… Cough..Cough…Cough!! It was as if we were amidst a cattle stampede. The fine dirt that the 350+ runners stampeded upon became a cloud of dust that rose up and around us. It finally settled as we began to ascend up the mountain into higher elevations.
We climbed the winding carriage trail for 3.5 miles, the cool mountain air was soon a mere memory as my body temperature rose along with the elevation. The blooming Mountain Laurel welcomed us and wished us well as we trekked up the trail. My objective for this race was purely to take in all these mountains had to offer. Around each curve of the trail there seemed to be an outlook point and I stopped at every one of them- took a picture, inhaled deeply and graciously accepted its gift of beauty.
I took off to catch up to Brett; I believe his objective was to finish without a break in his slow and steady pace. My dad always said, “slow and steady wins the race.”
I finally reached Castle Point, the peak of this 14K trail run.
WOW! Sometimes it is difficult to put into words what something so breathtaking makes you feel…. let me try. As I stood on the cliff and looked out, it was as if I was suddenly all alone- just me, the valley, its vastness and Lake Awosting lying in the center of a thick forest of pine. Here is one of those moments I described above when you have to be open- dare I use the word vulnerable, to what the world and life is offering and the changes it wants to make within you. It would have been real easy to distract myself with keeping time and pace but I chose to stop and listen and feel that moment. This moment- this valley, reminded me how strong I am and that there is a world out there waiting for me to put my mark on it. It told me not to change one thing about who I am, what I want from life, my dreams and desires. It reminded me that it won’t be an easy journey but if I want it bad enough, it is mine for the taking. Yes, I heard all of that from this valley and from that one moment that I chose to stop and listen.
It was time to pull myself away from this momentous view and continue on to find what else awaited me. Again I kicked it into high gear and raced down the winding trail to try to catch up to Brett. The decent made it all the easier to run at top speed but the constant flux in pace had now given me a cramp in my side; I had to pull back just a bit. I then realized it was imperative for me to veer off the trail and make a quick pit stop into the woods. My bladder was sending me consistent warning signs that I finally decided to heed. As I looked for a private place within the forest I prayed that I would not be stomping upon a patch of poison ivy; that was not part of the experience I was looking to take from this Summer Solstice run! After I became one with my surroundings I took off down the trail; I reminded myself why I was here and slowed my pace down. I was now about three quarters of the way to the finish line. I turned a corner and once again the backdrop was set just perfectly as act three began to unfold. The cliff that jetted out over the trail looked majestic wrapped in the bright blue sky. As I ran under it I couldn’t help to think about all it has weathered throughout the years, each striation must have a tale to tell and hold many secrets of the past- present – and maybe even the future.
The stitch in my side finally subsided as I fell into a nice steady pace. I decided to try to make up some time now that the sun was setting; the serenity of the cool, lush forest encouraged me on to the finish line. Even though my pace felt comfortable, my body was feeling quite taxed. I was ready for this run to be done and eager to cross that finish line.
I could hear cheering ahead; the finale of this summer’s solstice was coming to an end. I instinctively sped up, I had just enough oomph to cross the finish line! “Oh- My- Gosh, NO! I can’t do it!” There up ahead was a steep incline right before the flat finish. I turned left and began to climb the daunting, ridiculous incline. I was passing other runners who had become mere prey to this divergence and resorted to walking. Despite its taunting, I ran, I pushed my body beyond where it wanted to be. People standing at the very top encouraged us to keep running. I refused to allow this obstacle to impede on my perseverance to finish this race giving it all I had. I didn’t need to be still this time to hear and feel what these mountains were chanting to me. “It’s not going to be easy, if you want it bad enough you are going to have to give it your all. You have to push your way to the top. Don’t stop – don’t give up- accept the challenge. Just beyond this grueling hurdle is the prize and it’s worth the fight!” And I did just that, fought my way to the top and ran as fast as my exhausted body would run onto and across the finish line, another race in the books and another remarkable experience to add to my Minniewaska portfolio.
After I regained my consciousness, I made my way over to the refueling center. There were several tables full of watermelon and other assorted fruits, Oreos, bagels, etc. I decided on small a piece watermelon; I find it hard to eat after running so hard. I heard my name being called, it was my friend Mary! Another wonderful person I have connected with through my love of running.
I realized I had missed out on the hand towels with the Summer Solstice logo on them, they were being handed out at the finish line, I ran back to claim one. The cool night air felt wonderful as we watched those who were awarded for their speed. They claimed prizes of homemade baked breads and certificates for free registration to up-coming races.
It was time to say goodbye to Minniewaska and the Summer Solstice. We made our way back to the car and down the mountain, back into the world below where it is a little more difficult to quiet yourself enough to listen to what life might be whispering to you. I will be back soon Minniewaska Mountains!
Live well ~ xo