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In July I got a wild hare to run Buffalo Thunder, a mid-September half-marathon race. My reasonable self debated with my wild hare self. Why did I want to do this? In the end I had nothing more than, “Because it is there. Because I can.” I wanted to train for it and look forward to it and get the t-shirt and know I’d done it.

I made my goal simple: train without injuring myself. It meant holding back and doing just enough that I knew I could run the distance but not so much that I knew I could run it fast. I also promised myself that I’d keep training only if I was enjoying running those longer distances.

The week before the race, I realized I had met my goal. I had trained just enough and had fun doing it. It felt good, but -- now what? What did I want or expect out of the race itself?

I was not sure if I could bring grit or speed to my race, so I planned on this: bring curiosity and wonder. If there’s opportunity, experience awe: all these runners! 1000 of us lined up in the Santa Fe morning cold to run for an hour or two or three together. I had been told it’s a beautiful course. What’s not to love about an adventure like that?

The first two miles were uphill, and I kept a slow, easy pace as I looked around and soaked in the blessing of being able to run. I thought of all the people who had run this way, hundreds or thousands of years ago before all the roads and buildings. Once the downhill began, my pace picked up surprisingly quickly, yet it also felt natural and easy so I kept at it. I pulled up next to a young, tall man and told him his running gait was beautiful and he looked like a gazelle. He told me, “Good pace, bro.” I don’t know which delighted me more, being complimented for my pace or being called “bro.”

Further up, I ran past a woman with red hands painted on her legs. I said to her, those hands are for native women who have been abused, yeah? And she looked at me and nodded, her face focused and quiet. (See 
this article and then this).

My quads began to burn fiercely by mile 6 and my pace had slowed a bit. There’s a saying for runners, “Run the mile you’re in.” Each mile I delighted in the experience I was having – the musicians playing along the course for us, the beautiful small homes we passed in Tesuque – and ignored the pain in my legs. When I hit ten miles and it started to feel more difficult, I met up with a running friend and kept up with her until mile 11. By then, still knowing anything could happen, I began to feel that happy thrill that I would run the full distance.

After I crossed the finish line, I had a brief sob. I felt joy that I’d dared to do something I knew would be difficult. For 13 miles, I had been present with my body and spirit, filled with gratitude, moving with joy.

I have an even grander adventure coming up. A dear friend told me of her plan to go with her son and one of her best friends to the Grand Canyon, hiking rim to rim in one day. That’s something like 22 miles, down to the Colorado River and back up again the other side. They had room for one more person; I begged to be included.

In order to do this, I need a lot of denial. I have to pretend that a 12 hour hike will feel like a two hour hike. I cannot worry about my feet or Achilles or think about how trashed my quads were after that half-marathon. I have to think of nothing but how beautiful this will be, and how grand it is to adventure with someone I have known since birth. 56 years later, we’re going to descend the Canyon and rise again.

Here’s a big thrill for me: I’m not planning any of this trip. I have had no input on the dates or where we stay or any of the particulars. I will show up when I’m told and follow someone else’s plan. That is entirely delicious. I get to adventure and I didn’t have to make any decisions beyond, “Yes.”