Moving is at the essence or both traveling and running. When running, if we are lucky, we may sometimes feel like we fly, or that very still we are.
If you are not blessed with time and money, to fuel the thirst for travel can be difficult. I started thinking about running as a substitute for travel a few years ago, when noting the change of the seasons on my usual trail runs. No run seemed to be the same, even as I had run through most of my local trails numerous times. Where once there was snow, now there were then blossoming flowers. Where snow once patched the landscape, later the heat would cover it all like an unwelcome blanket.
The trails I run on, are primarily easy rolling hills at the foothills of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I reside. When my stamina allows it, I run up the trails that lead towards the crest of the Sandias. Sometimes, when I go on a supposedly easy run, I feel the mountain calling my name and inviting me to run to her, an invitation I seldom refuse.
To travel is to break from the routine, an excuse to be a child again and marvel at the discovery of uncharted territory. It is to have the excuse to ask your parents for the treat you would normally not get at home, and get it. The return to a sacred place where joy was once encountered. To reunite with loved ones that long for your presence, and whose company you crave. The unexpected discovery of new friends.
Once, talking with a coworker with whom we mutually brag about our loyalty airline status, I introduced the idea of running as a form of travel, which this person callously dismissed. But I may argue that there are common elements in both running and traveling.
First: Traveling is about discovery and facing the unknown, the hopefulness of being able to see with new eyes, finding whatever it is that we hope will make us whole. To run is akin to a journey to the undetermined boundaries of our physical, mental, and emotional limitations. It harbors the promise of improving ourselves, while relieving tension and anxiety.
Second: When we are getting ready for a trip, there is a sense of anticipatory excitement, which can be equated to the eagerness of getting the running gear ready prior to a run, particularly if it is a long, special one.
Third: They both share the joy of us doing what we love. For this reason, this sense of wonder experienced when running or traveling, could be extrapolated to whatever a person truly does love.
On a strong day, I’m able to climb up the trails towards the Sandia Crest were pine trees live, and the climate is cooler. The temperature change is always welcomed in the summer, while in the winter it forces me to be alert for ice patches. I’m normally not a fast runner. I like to be absorbed by the environment, go on autopilot mode and follow the trail. It is sort of like driving on the highway, all you can do is to follow the endless line of asphalt. Or as sitting on my airplane seat and admire the rugged Canadian terrain full of islands and fjords, covered by snow during an Atlantic crossing. Here, during my ascend to the Sandia Crest trails, the pines are indisputably closer, never the less they feel as far and close as some forest some forty thousand feet below, and as the airliner cannot stop to get a closer look, I keep on running through this forest so close to home, in which I’m immersed.
Travel offers the possibility of transformation. The transformation of the self we experience when our surroundings are changed. When running up the Sandia Crest trails, which although geographically close to the city, may not be an accessible run for all, this feeling is clearly present. This feeling is also present on a run around the park, when it seems that all that there is to be heard is the sound of air moving through our nostrils, down our larynx, to participate of the gas exchange down our lungs, to feed our beating hearts, that tries to keep up with the rhythm of our willingness to move.
There is a sense of wonder that arises when we discover something for the first time. May this be being engulfed by the scent of a city for the first time when we leave the artificially controlled climate of the airport. Or it may be having your first run, running around your parent’s kitchen table, and realizing that, yes, you can run.
That sense of wonder is also there when we are truly present. Travel, with its novelty of sights, aromas, smiles, and sounds can bring us to that present state almost without a fault. Running, through different mechanisms, through the pulsation of our heart, by noting and greeting a fellow runner, the flowering greenery in the spring, the dormant bushes in the winter, all bring us as well to the present moment of now.
Each one of us can travel. Because travel is at the end of the day about movement, and an inch may take us as far as ten thousand nautical miles, if we truly move.
For inspiration for Winter Running: