Tag Archives: Mount Washington

What do we love?

On my morning run today, knowing I might need some external motivation, I listened to last year’s interview with Sally McRae by Julia Hanlon on Julia’s Running on Om podcast. My tired legs may have yielded somewhat slower miles on that run, but Sally’s thoughtful reflections on her Western States 100 training led me onward through my 12 miles, and brought my thinking inward to reflect on this question: what do we love?

Some answers come easily.

    

Some do not.

The more I run, the more I seem to have conversations about things like passion and purpose, goals and direction.

Most recently, I told a friend that I wasn’t yet done becoming who I wanted to be. On reflection, what I think I really meant was, ‘I haven’t yet done all I can to be the best person I can be, and I want to take my time and enjoy the ride.’

We all follow very different paths, for sure, but for me it has often been a literal path — frequently uphill, nearly always layered with soil and lichen-covered stones, under a sky that is more often than not threatening rain.

What we all share, however, is that there is a path. And even when look ahead to see what’s next (I mean, of course we do!), it is the act of being on the path — and learning to acknowledge and love every step along the way — that is essential to keep us both rooted and moving forward. To quote a dog from a book that helped me through a particularly challenging moment in my life, “that which you manifest is before you.

When I ran in the 7.6-mile race up the Mount Washington Auto Road with some of our student-athletes, staff, and friends last weekend, I could not have been more proud to see my students come up the last 22% grade to the finish line — I could see them becoming more confident, becoming more self-assured, and becoming stronger with every. tired. step.

As I start the last hard training block for my Arctic Trail run, I have to keep my eyes steadfastly on today — on this run, this mile, this training session — while also planning for the 500-mile adventure I have ahead of me. Balancing those two — the moment and the thing-that-comes-next — is, for me, one of the hardest parts of training.

But it helps answer my question:

I believe we have to love the process of becoming — whatever path we choose to follow.

The Sterling Skyrunner extended family atop Mount Washington

The Long Way

IMG_7598

The view from the top

It has been something of a tradition for me over the past several years that, on a day in late summer, I’ve run up the 3 mile approach up the slopes of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington to the base of the Pinnacle in Huntington Ravine, climbed the 500 ft route (rated 5.5), and run back down to Pinkham Notch.

Yesterday, I knew when I had reached the base of the technical climbing and laced up my climbing shoes that I was well ahead of my pace from last year. At the top of the climb some 20 minutes later, I knew that I could crush my PR of 2 hours and 52 minutes from last year.

IMG_7498

The Pinnacle, Huntington Ravine

But…

…I looked around, soaking in the solitude of being alone among the massive granite ravine spires, ledges, talus, and waves of krummholz that arced away to the north. And I realized that this day was for something else. Something besides chasing last year’s time on this route.

It was about taking the long way and taking my time.

When I scrambled up the scree past cranberry, blueberry, and redcurrant and joined the Alpine Garden trail a few minutes later, I turned north–toward Nelson Crag and the trail that would take me over the summit of Mount Washington. From there, I made my way across the Bigelow Lawn along the lesser traveled Davis Path toward Boot Spur, across Slide Peak, and beneath Glen Boulder to wind back down to the trailhead in just over 4 hours.

Whether in planning a long run or expedition, or thinking about personal or community (or even global) resilience, we are ever deluding ourselves to think there is some shortcut; a path that just gets us where we want to go without distraction.

It’s taken me a long time to understand that there never really is a shortcut–at least not one that doesn’t demand something from us in return–some compromise or some future debt.

If we are to truly recognize ourselves as part of a larger system, then it’s important to recognize what what happens elsewhere in the system when we don’t make time to take the long way.

IMG_7597

The Davis Path