musings on running, life, and everything in between

Trails, Tuesdays, and Heartbreak 

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It’s a tough time of year. In the last week, two friends have lost people in their lives to suicide. Between the forced merriment of various holidays, the quickly darkening and dreary days (seriously, I’m more concerned about the countdown to the winter solstice than Christmas at this point), and the seemingly endless supply of horror in the news lately, it’s hard. So let’s start there. It. Is. Hard. But it’s not hopeless. One thing I started thinking about was how rarely we hear how appreciated we are–both from those close to us and those we barely know. The outpouring of love, support, and kind words for these two individuals is overwhelming. But I also remember hearing a story about someone who wanted a funeral for themselves while they were still alive, because then they could hear it. It is of little use to us when we’ve passed this mortal coil. Granted, it helps those left behind, but maybe it could help all of us.

I recently saw a comic, which I can’t place right now. Maybe The Oatmeal? Or Yeti? Anyhow, it was a boy and his dad discussing superpowers, specifically how the boy wondered if anyone really had superpowers. The dad said, “Yeah. See that guy over there with the ugly hat?” (Said guy is a sad sack-looking fellow). And then the dad turns to him and says, “Your hat is awesome. You are doing a great job wearing it.” The sad man straightens up and smiles, and the dad turns towards the son and says, “See, you have the power to change someone’s day.” I’m sorry if I’m butchering it, and if anyone can help me place the comic, that would be better. But, it ultimately got me thinking about how changing someone else’s day can also change ours. In our modern age, we are so disconnected from the humanity of others and ourselves. Ironically, the more plugged in we are and the more crowded we live, it seems we pull back into ourselves even further. I don’t have to reach far for pieces from the news that illustrate this.

My friend recently sent me a link to another blog that gets at this idea of connecting, of trying to feel hope in a world that seems awful. The post is titled “Fifteen Things for When the World Is Shitty and Terrifying.” I loved it because some of the things were about being gentle with yourself, and others were about reaching out to help others and express gratitude.

Through my job, I help provide gifts to a child–both their “wants” and “needs” lists. However, I selfishly don’t feel all that excited about it, because I don’t feel connected to the giving. I don’t have firsthand experience with the organization that we work with. I haven’t been there to deliver or distribute the gifts. I didn’t seek out this way of giving (it’s just something my workplace has been doing for a long time). In this manner, I don’t feel personally connected. In contrast to this experience, though, is the homeless person that approached our car the other day (coming back from a trail run. I swear I’ll get to the running part of this blog, ha). I have never given roadside solicitors money, mostly because I don’t know what they’ll “do” with it (I have friends in recovery who were homeless because of substance abuse, and I don’t feel comfortable helping prop that situation up). HOWEVER, I also don’t regularly find ways to help the homeless either. So, in some ways, I continue to ignore a large problem and am potentially dehumanizing them and their situation. At the end of the day, I’m assuming they’ll use the money for dubious things and I’m not helping them better their lot in even a small way.

I’ve been thinking about this alot. One thing I saw last winter was a local mom and her daughter creating homeless hygiene kits and distributing them to people. While I find the idea of roving the countryside looking for potentially homeless-looking people to give your kits uncomfortable, I have long thought about creating kits to give to roadside solicitors when they approach my car. In that manner, I’m acknowledging them (versus furiously looking at my phone) and I’m doing something to possibly help them. These kits are ziploc bags that contain some food and water, gloves or hats, socks (a much-needed yet oft-neglected item with this population), soap, hand sanitizer, travel shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant, lotion, baby wipes, feminine products, and transit cards. I’m stopping by Target later to pick up some things for the house, and plan on picking up a few of these items as well.

As promised, there is actual running on this blog. Last week was pretty good, and Saturday I got to do a REAL trail run. Single-track, muddy, through the woods, skipping roots and rocks. And I didn’t fall. MAGIC. It was hard. I swear I thought I was going faster than the 10:30’ish pace my watch told me at the end. We did the Bullfrog Lake loop down in Palos. About 9 miles total.

It was super foggy that morning as the weather was changing a bit. Bianca and I got there early and ran a mile before hooking up with the group (we were doing the run with the Flatland Ultrarunners). It was a good-sized group that included folks who did 50 milers and 100 milers. Crazy! I was glad to run with other people as the single-track loop breaks up a few times to other loops and I would have gotten lost or spent alot of time on my phone debating which fork to take. Especially since everything looked the same out there. Brown and grey. Bare. There were a couple times that made me nervous barreling down a hill, but it was awesome overall. I don’t think I can make the time commitment to do it every week (it’s a 30 minute car ride each way), but I definitely want to regularly work in the trail runs into the mix.
One thing I realized is that everyone was wearing trail shoes. One woman, who runs 100 miler’s, said she used microspikes in the winter, which is exactly what they sound like. Similar to Yak Trax, they strap under your regular running shoes but they have spikes instead of the coiled wires of the Trax. She said she has no problem running on straight ice with them because they grip really well, and they don’t change your stride. I know what I’m asking for Christmas 🙂

While it wasn’t muddy enough for my shoes to feel super-challenged (I was wearing my regular Kinvaras), it was muddy enough to make things a big mess afterwards! I swear I had mud in my socks too. I’m beginning to see why people wear gaiters when they run now. Bianca, the seasoned trail runner, had another pair of shoes in the car to drive home in. I just scraped as much of it off as possible before getting in the car. 

I’m hoping to get in another trail run later today by my work. We’ll see if time allows. It’s end of semester, which means there’s a ton of grading. Sigh.

Anyhow, lovely people. I hope you are kinder to yourselves and to others. Tell someone something nice today and what you appreciate about them. Even if it’s a stranger. Perhaps it’s even better if it’s a stranger (if you’re a man, though, God help you if you try to tell a woman to smile!).

Author: runNerdier

Marathoner. Academic. Mom of 2 ankle-biters.

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