The Trail Animals

I usually try to conserve my energy before a group run. I’ll sit on the ground, tie and re-tie my shoes, and pretend to stretch. But this run was different, this was the first meeting of the Dirty Running Trail Animals, and this group would not abide the conservation of energy.

I started the group for my kids, because I can talk all day about how they need to put down the iPhones, turn off the TV and video games, and get out in nature, but I feel that it is somewhat my responsibility to provide the means. I invited some friends with kids the same age and let them know that we were going to get out, run a couple trail miles, climb a few hills, and catch the sunset at the top of the mountain. Double Peak isn’t really a mountain, but for the kids at the bottom of the hill, looking up to the top, it must have looked like one.

I wasn’t stretching on the side of the road when most of the kids started showing up, I was climbing up a random trail because my son wanted to see where it went. It wasn’t really even a trail, although I’m sure coyotes used it as one. We quickly climbed above the cars, and when I told him that it was time to turn, he did so begrudgingly.

The kids started rolling in, and by 4:00, there were over 20 of them itching to start. I gathered the kids together as the parents stood off to the side and told them the two rules: help each other out, and have fun. I gave them a short course overview…run up the hill, take a left on the Secret Trail, then a right on the Super Secret Trail, then up an even steeper trail where they would have to scale some rocks, then to the top where they could play on the playground and watch the sunset. After the sunset, we would run down the dirt path back to the cars.

Life balance sounds good on paper, all clean and seperate with equal percentages for work, play, family, and hobbies. I’ve never been one for balance, so I’m throwing in the towel on that. There is no life balance, just life, and I’m going to share it with family and friends whether they like it or not, and they don’t always like it. As we were leaving, I had to practically drag my teenage daughter out the door, threatening to confiscate her phone for the week if she didn’t join. It would have been much easier to let her stay at home and just take my younger kids who were dying to run, but as she stood at the top, arm around her younger sister’s waist as the setting sun painted the feathered clouds in red and orange…at that moment, I knew that we were all exactly where we needed to be.

As we ran down the wide and steep dirt path next to the road, I watched the kids, leaning forward into the downhill, still running on their toes without fear of falling, and the adults, yelling after them to slow, to be careful, leaning back on our heels because we know what happens when we trip or turn an ankle on the smallest bump in the trail. I could have kept yelling, but they weren’t going to stop or slow down. They had gravity on their side, wind rushing by their ears, and fearless hearts, running like animals to the night.

Thanks for reading.

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