If you live in or travel to Charlotte, NC I would strongly encourage you to enjoy a trail run at the US National Whitewater Center (www.usnwc.org). On a Saturday afternoon, the Whitewater Center is a party – rafting, ziplining, rock climbing, mountain biking, beer, live music, food carts, and tons of people watching…it is a lot of fun. But if it is peace, quiet, and solitude you are looking for there aren’t much better places than 6am on a Wednesday at the Whitewater Center!
If it is your first time, I’d recommend the Lake Loop, a relatively easy 3 mile jog in the woods around a couple of small ponds. Make sure you finish the loop and run all the way to the whitewater channel to see the sun coming up near the water (see above). It is unlikely you’ll encounter many folks at USNWC at that time of morning and this morning I was all by myself with the exception of a few frogs, a turtle, and some birds. It was one of the most enjoyable runs I’ve had in awhile and it reminded me that I need to make time for those types of runs more often.
If you’ve never done a trail run, but you are a runner, I would strongly encourage you to try the trail. When you run on the trail you need to slow down (your pace will likely be one and a half to two minutes slower per mile), shorten your stride (so that you can ensure you don’t slip, fall, or trip on the things in your way), and pay attention (unlike the sometime mindless run on pavement, you need to watch where you put your feet down and focus on the twists and turns of the trail). Trail running is a great way to cross train both your legs and your mind because it works different muscles as you aren’t going to land the same on any two steps (be sure to stretch hips and ankles especially before and after); it also requires a concentration that forces you to focus on what you are doing in a way that will really help you relax when you get back to the road.
I don’t trail run as much as I’d like now, but every time I do I wish I did it more. There’s nothing like a run in the woods to clear your mind and start your day right. Today was a great start at the USNWC.
I mostly run alone for a lot of reasons – some time to be quiet and reflect, the ability to be distraction free and observe the world around me, the chance to run as fast or slow as I want depending on how I feel that day, and the focus it creates for me on being my best regardless of what is going on around me.
Partially because I run alone, I also enjoy races. I don’t run races every month, let alone every weekend, but I try to make them a regular part of my running life. Being Together with other runners reminds me that I’m not insane – that others value testing their bodies this way. I enjoy running in races because the conversation and camaraderie with other runners on the course is fun and engaging; it inspires me to keep going sometimes or speed up sometimes. Running in a race is so different than my daily running alone, that I get a lot of enjoyment from it and make it a priority.
Life is the same way. I have to do a lot of things alone and I choose to spend other time alone. A lot of my work, whether it be from my home office or on the road traveling to be with a client, involves being alone. I used to dread this, felt like I always needed people around me. Now, I enjoy it, even savor it, because I recognize the value of being alone. Being alone and quiet in life has become something I prioritize and work to make a part of my life, for much the same reason that I run alone.
Most importantly, being alone in my daily life creates a greater appreciation for times I get to be together with my family and friends. The picture above is from our family visit to the US National Whitewater Center’s Green River Revival for St. Patrick’s Day and it was great to be completely focused on that time together, enjoy the conversations with my kids, and share in some pure fun. I’ve had some great opportunities recently to see friends that I don’t see very often and those times together have made me more appreciative and thoughtful of them when I’m alone.
I look forward to my alone time this week and I’m also looking forward to some upcoming “Together Times” with my family and friends. BOTH are valuable parts of a healthy life and must be protected and prioritized.