I've succeeded in that! I ran a different combination of trails in Red Rocks today than any I've done before and it was among the most peaceful hours of my running life. The bright red earth with fresh snow, the cool, still, morning, and the view of the park through the fog were otherworldly. Really, where else in the world can you stand in one place and see snow covered cactuses, mountains, lakes, and colorful canyons. It was just me and the dog and the views for a good three miles before we crossed paths with another person.
It's mornings like this - when it seems that you have the whole world to yourself - that make the sport something more than just a means to fitness. No one is around to see you run, no one will know if you stop, if your form falls apart, if you walk up the hills or avoid them all together. Yet, we don't. It's experiences like this that remind me why I run - not for recognition or to fit in or to have legs that look awesome come shorts season. I run for me. I attack the hills when I'm alone because I want to, I run hard when it's just me and the red dirt because I can, I watch my form when it's just me and a dog, because it matters to me, I smile even when I'm the only person on the trail because I'm fortunate enough to be out here doing my thing.
We climbed back into the car just as the parking lot was beginning to fill up with hikers and runners. My running tights splattered with mud, her paws bright orange from the dirt. It was another run that would have felt near impossible a month ago. In fact, the first time I ran at Red Rocks I convinced myself that I was a fraud, that I had actually lost my ability to run efficiently. Today, I kept hoping that the hills would last just a little longer, because I've worked hard over the last month and what was once lung-crushing, quad-burning agony has become a leisurely run the park. This bit of fun was a good reminder that a body that is conditioned to run will adjust to new running conditions with time and practice (and patience, but that's a challenge in and of itself).