Running the Tickfaw

The B*itch told me to run however far and however I wanted to yesterday. She predicted accurately that I’m struggling with my relationship with running. So, she wanted me to get back into enjoying it. I woke up Sunday, and I really didn’t want to start the day off running in the cold, so I drank tea, played around on Facebook, took a morning nap and cooked some sweet potatoes and brown rice for the week ahead. I asked my friend Bobbi Jo to recommend some places to run that were pretty scenic, and she did. They were quaint little Southern towns that would have offered a really nice running day. But something inside of me wanted the woods, and I decided to head out to Tickfaw State Park.

In one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had all week, my friend Jean Ann showed up on my front porch right before I left. No one has surprised me with a visit since I’ve been here, and I was really shocked at how happy it made me for somebody to just drop by. We had some chai tea together and caught up on our lives, and she headed back out to finish her photography and head home. I loaded up my lavender-scented dog and put the GPS on Tickfaw State Park.

I planned on logging 5 miles. When I got the state park gate and paid my $2 entrance fee, the young lady handed me a map that said there were 5 miles of trails here. Perfect, I thought… this is where I need to be. I decided to start out on the Bottomland/River Trail. This state park is really beautiful. Trails are constructed of areas of boardwalk and natural dirt or imported gravel. There were about 10 people in the park when I got there. Families with kids got their strollers ready and kids dressed for the chilly weather. It was the perfect time for a run. The sun was moving down its axis to sunset just enough that the sunlight flickered through the cypress trees creating a dappled, misty effect. I took off, a little nervous about my run, and hit the boardwalk. The last three runs I’d had had been aborted before I was finished due to pain from an injury and lack of interest. I wanted to enjoy today.

One of the kids screamed as I ran by with Ashok. I could hear her mother comforting her, telling her the dog wouldn’t hurt her. Poor Ashok, she sits patiently while kids rub on her. That child’s fear was definitely misplaced. When I got near the banks of the little river, I noticed two fisherman. One was on the man-made bridge that crossed over the river, and the other was on the riverbank. They had both settled in for the day. Ice chests, tackleboxes and other fishing supplies surrounded the chairs where the say, perched in their Sunday meditation. I followed the trail onto the riverbank and ran/walked while Ashok stopped occasionally to swim, ran ahead of me and came back to make sure I was still following. She won’t let me out of her sight, and she loves trail running.

The trail was shorter than my 5 miles, so I ran to another boardwalk trail and another, taking in the cypress swamps, the dappled sunlight, and the fall color. It was really beautiful. I had about 1 to go when I got back the original boardwalk, so I went back to go across the bridge this time to see what was on the other side. This time, I saw a young pregnant woman, dressed in a pretty teal sweater and some really cute boots, posing for a photographer who was capturing the essence of her pregnancy on a beautiful fall day. I had missed that in my life. I’d never been pregnant. That was an experience I’d never had. I crossed over the bridge, nodding to the fisherman who seemed to want his silence, and caught the river trail on the other side. This one was promising. There was a sign that proclaimed this an unimproved trail, and it led to Oxbow Point. I noticed a young couple sitting on the riverbank, her leaning into him in the crook of his arm. They glanced at me and nodded, and I realized I’d missed that, too. At their age, I was hell-bent on making a career and married to a man who was hell-bent on making his career. Times in nature wouldn’t come until later.

This trail was shorter than the other, and I arrived at Oxbow Point much quicker than the sign had said. It was beautiful. There was a park bench situated right at the point. The river appears to fork here, and the sun was hitting the water just right. Because the temperatures were chilly, mist was rising off the water. I stood there for a moment thinking what a gift this little spot was. I have a breathing meditation that I do where I take 4 inhales – no exhales – filling my lungs with air and then hold my breath. While I’m holding my breath, I picture someplace that is really beautiful to me. Usually, I picture the view from Mt. LeConte in the Smoky Mountains with its fall colors on a brilliant sunshiny fall day. At that point in the meditation, I repeat, “I am that,” reminding myself that I am part of the bigger universe and it is part of me. I thought I needed to take a mental pic of this scene because this would be one to use. I no longer live in the mountains, and I need something here in my mental portfolio.

I ran back the way I came, and as I passed the couple, I thought, “I am that, too.” I repeated the same mantra as I passed the pregnant photography shoot. The magic of this world is that I am part of the greater energy of everything. There is no separation. It is all in my mind that I separate myself from all that God has made. I am also that little girl screaming in fear about something that really isn’t there. I am all of that. My run was just what  I needed. My favorite runs are spiritual journeys. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it’s just a run. I can log a few miles and be in my head about work the whole time or worried about money … or love … or what I’m going to do when I grow up. None of that happened yesterday. I watched my dog and learned from her. Where you or I might see a trail, she only sees an adventure. The funny thing is I hardly remembered the actual running at all. I was caught on the wave that took me to another place. I am THAT. It’s really not WHERE I run … yesterday was an example of WHY I run.

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50 Something single woman in Michigan who loves the outdoors, people, running and hiking.

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