Monday, July 20, 2009

16 Great Miles

I ran 16 miles yesterday, and it was the first time in the long time that I really enjoyed a long run.

I didn't just enjoy it, I loved it.

I realized how much I take for granted. My body, the ONLY one I have, can carry me 16 miles. What a gift! How great it is to feel my health, youth, and vitality in motion.

But it wasn't my body, or my speed, or the fact that I felt GREAT from mile one, to mile 16. It was my surroundings.

I got up at 4 am for this run. I started running while it was still dark, before the sun was out. At first, it felt cold and eery. It was in the low 60's when I started, high 60's by sunrise. I realize that's not really "cold" but after a few months of summer in the desert it feels cold.

Let me digress.

I had the desert to myself until after the sun was well up.

Per usual, I was running on the south rim of Canyon de Chelly. I decided this time to run one continuous line, instead of running half the distance and turning around. So, for the first time, I got to see a beautiful 16 mile stretch of the canyon. And I was moving on foot, so I had ample time to take in all the scenery.

If you have a list of things to do before you die, add this to it: a desert sunrise. It was phenomenal. At first, I was kicking myself for not having a camera on me, but quickly realized that no camera could do this sunrise justice. Allow me to attempt to do it justice with words:

As the sun was about half way up, all the red rocks of the desert and canyon seemed to glow this indescribable shade of crimson. The sky was coming to light, the clouds were deep purple, the whispy ones glowing pink, and the edges of all the clouds an overwhelmingly happy sunny orange color. The entire sky had ribbons laced throughout it, the color of salmon flesh.

The Juniper trees laced the air with their scent. Cotton tail bunnies shared the road with me the entire way. Just hopping all over the place. There were hoards of them! They're cute enough to make me feel that childish urge to go get one and hug it. (I refrained).

Wild horses were out by the dozen. Grazing, looking for what little foliage there is to snack on. They seem so much nobler in a wild setting.

I even saw a rattlesnake! At this time of the year, it's not uncommon to encounter them on a fairly regular basis. I respected its space, it respected mine. Some people fear them or think they're horrible. But, I think the desert needs them, for poetic reasons at the very least. I realized on my run that snakes bring a fierce, lithe sensuality to a rough terrain. It fits in perfectly, and makes its surroundings even more beautiful.

I don't think I would have enjoyed this run as much if I had done it at another time of day.

My body carried me through this 16-mile moment; and I'm thankful to my body for that. After enjoying a full morning of nearly drowning in these beautiful surroundings, it made me realize how much of the desert's beauty I've really been taking for granted the entire time I've been living here.

It's not an easy place to live. But it is a wonderful place to enjoy a very early morning run. I can't wait to do it again.