Getting far away from it all and escaping to mountainous (for Central Pennsylvania), remote trails is something I rarely have the opportunity to do anymore. The responsibilities of being a parent, as well as the myriad of other time commitments I have make getting those trips to secluded trails far and few between.
There is definitely a fair amount of guilt after driving half an hour or more to do a 4 hour run and then returning in the afternoon. And that is when it is even feasible, because mostly it just is not anymore. Which is alright.
A few years ago I really got caught up in the wonderful sport of ultrarunning and jumped in wholeheartedly with both feet. I had visions of completing all the major mountain ultras and traveling the country to do so. The cost and time commitment has proved especially daunting, however, and I have come to terms with what is possible at this time in my life.
And that is getting out every day for a run. It means a lot of road miles. And it means the urban trails surrounding the city will have to suffice for the trail miles I need to get in. I can get up early, drive the less than 10 minutes to the “trailhead” get in some nice miles and then be back at home before the kids are up.
And the trails surrounding the Harrisburg Greenbelt are actually really quite nice and fun to explore. And while I am not likely to come across rattlesnakes or bears on my run, there is the discarded pornography that makes an occasional appearance on the side of the trail. And that certainly beats the gym.
This morning I went out to the Greenbelt for the first time since the blizzard in late January. I have been spending much of my time running aimless loops around the neighborhood, with occasional jaunts out for a longer loop here and there. While I have been able to maintain my fitness, these excursions have been less than exciting and quite tedious. I have gotten to know my neighbor’s comings and goings quite well and I suppose I have become quite the fixture in my little town.
At any rate I put on some decidedly upbeat music and headed to the trailhead parking lot right by Dauphin County prison. Setting both my gps watch and strava on my phone, I started off at a pace completely unrealistic to where I am physically at this time. In running, as in life, the unrealistic seems quite doable for a short while before reality sets in. I think of the promise of the future and the endless possibilities of life. All I have to do is try hard and maintain a steady pace. Just a little bit of steady effort is all it will take, and I’ll be right where I need to be. A few extra cups of coffee in the morning is all I need and I my life will get turned right around. I need to do more with my life, I need more friends, and I need to continue my education. And then reality to starts to set in and I drastically downgrade my pace expectations and also my mileage expectations for the day. Hey, that’s not too bad. I can totally live with that. And then the thoughts become much more mundane and I start thinking about what I am going to eat for lunch as opposed to what I am going to accomplish in my life.
The rest of the run was pretty much unremarkable until when I was almost done I came across a guy taking pictures by the river. He smiled and took a few of me as I was approaching. I smiled back and said “good morning” and he said”hey, you wanna make some extra money?” I had no response as I ran past and mulled over this request. How much and what in particular was being requested? The man did have a Nikon, so I imagine it would be a reasonable offer. I briefly thought of turning around and getting the specifics. For someone who questions their own self worth as much as me, I was of course curious as to where that rock-bottom worth really lies. But alas, the answer to this question was to elude me today as I had to get back to my car and get to work. Rest assured, though, next time I will be prepared and will find out. And as I slowed down at the end of my run my thoughts were no longer on the great heights I can attain and strive for in my life, but rather how much I could get for a few illicit moments behind some shrubbery by the river.