Fitness Quest: A Run in the Woods

So Monday, in my continuing quest for greater fitness (and overall looking good) I decided to mix things up a bit and stop for a run along a trail after work Monday. Of course I’m using the term “run” loosely but thought it would be interesting to see how I did off a track and on a trail. So I stopped by one of my favorite Toledo Metroparks (Wildwood) which I had not been to in far too long, laced up my running shoes, turned on my running app and took off.

The course I selected was about 2.3 miles long and I planned to run 1/5th of a mile followed by walking 1/5th of a mile. This lasted for about half a mile then I fell into a 1/10th run…jog…waddle and 1/10th walk. I cleverly timed the running portion to always go uphill…yeah, I totally planned that part.

Traffic on the trail was heavy, as anticipated since Wildwood is one of the most popular parks, and everyone from a grade school class of runners (who only lapped me once), teens, young adults, middle aged folks and even a few elderly folks. The day was hot and humid.

I realized that runners, and walkers, have a sort of code when encountering each other on the trail. Often just a nod of the head, or a quick wave to sort of say “hey, I see you kindred spirit – just can’t talk now.” Other gestures are more complex. For example there’s one with the little finger and index finger extended, like surfers use, which seems to say “I see you. Keep going, if you don’t make it back I’ll help identify your body,” and another less popular gesture using the middle finger which seems to be for “dear sir, perhaps you don’t notice that I am behind you and cannot get around your <expletive deleted> FAT <colorful colloquialism for buttocks>!” or am I the only one who gets that? My favorite signal is from other gentlemen, like myself, of a certain age who smile knowingly while breathing hard. A gentle nod and slight wave that says, “me too brother, me too…”

At one point I spotted a man dressed in yellow who appeared to be on a trail which ran perpendicular to mine and then parallel with me until he disappeared silently into the forest. I never found the intersection of the trail he was one with my trail nor did I see his trail on a map. So, I can only presume that he was some sort of modern version of a Will o’ the Wisp and there to encourage me to continue further along my path. Such a waste of supernatural energies as it only served to freak me out (perhaps the lack of oxygen to my brain at this point had something to do with my line of thinking at the time).

Going up and down hills, or what pass for hills in Northwest Ohio, was different and I did feel it in my thighs the next day. However, running through nature has a charm and attraction all it’s own. It is difficult to hear the sounds of the woods over the loud breathing and beating heart, but the sights are there. The changing of the light as it filters through the green canopy above, the rustle of smaller wildlife getting out of your way. All reminders that we (i.e. humans) used to be one with this environment. It’s where we came from and in many ways it’s were we need to return to. A slower pace that reminds us that life is bigger than any one of us and should be preserved.

Though I didn’t do as well as hoped, I was pleased that I was able to actually run much of the trail and I followed my 2.3 miles with another mile or so “cool down” walk along the Ottawa River where I saw a couple deer and a Great Blue Heron…and a couple runners from the other trail who were still at it…good for them. Maybe that will be me one day. Though I won’t resort to the one fingered gesture.

There’s no glory in victory if you can’t be humble about it after all.

Onward!

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