Culture

TRAIL STOKE: Your Daily Run Offers A Reset Button

I could tell it’s one of those days. It’s 11:45 a.m. and several work projects have had me drinking from the fire hose since I woke up.

My plan for a midday trail run has been well-intended, but it’s not going to happen. I have a 1 p.m. Zoom meeting and I have several things to accomplish before I log on. Plus, I’m so hungry I could eat day-old sushi rolls. In fact, I’m so hungry I drop everything and snarf down the aging spicy tuna rolls in the cardboard box in my refrigerator, only then realizing they were actually two-day-old sushi rolls.

The point of the story isn’t that I ate some skanky fish for lunch, it’s that I am in this predicament because I skipped the opportunity to go out for an early morning trail run several hours ago. When my alarm went off at 5:25 a.m., I was already sitting at my basement desk in baggy sweatpants, a wrinkled T-shirt and a hoody prepping for a 7 a.m. Zoom call with an overseas client. And despite the boost of a 5-Hour Energy and a cold brew coffee, I felt groggy, out of sorts and uninspired.

Look, I’m a bit of a workaholic and often get burdened by my obsessive tunnel vision, so sometimes I wake up early and don’t start my day trail running. And I almost always regret it.

On this morning, I somehow thought that going for an early run would have left me off the back as I started my morning, so I gave in to the stress of work and re-focused on a midday run.

As much as working from home has given us all a lot more freedom to manage our time as we see fit — wink, wink all you work-from-homers who sneak away for two-hour lunchtime trail runs — the work still has to get done. So on days like this, I burn through a lot of caffeine (and the old sushi) and bury myself in a multi-tasking frenzy for hours on end, only to realize it’s getting dark outside and I still haven’t run yet.

And inevitably I go through an awkward debate in my head that’s vibrating from the mental exhaustion of the day. Should I lace up my kicks and just get out there ASAP for a quick trail run as the sun is setting? Or should I consider today a rest day and get up for a quality run early tomorrow? I know from experience that 100 percent of the time it’s better if I choose to go running, so most of the time I get after it and salvage the day with a quick lap on Boulder’s Mt. Sanitas or a meandering jaunt from a trailhead north of town.

We all know how meaningful a single trail run can be. It’s our energy, our play time, our private time, our therapy, our daily affirmation. It’s any and all of the reasons we do it. And while that daily run isn’t always a life-changing epic experience, it always feels good. And it’s always better than the days we don’t run. And that’s why we keep doing it. And yet we really only know how meaningful a single trail run is on the rare and unfortunate days when we don’t or can’t hit the dirt.

On those rare days I skip it, I usually wind up on my spin bike instead or some kind of strength workout or YouTube yoga session, though I know from experience neither brings anything close to the same satisfaction of any old trail run. And, yes, sometimes I break bad and give into fatigue and just throw in the towel for the day.

Those are dark days. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And it makes Brian stir crazy. And today was one of those days. For reasons that would ultimately feel insignificant, I didn’t make it out for a run on this particular day.

We all know how meaningful a single trail run can be. It’s our energy, our play time, our private time, our therapy, our daily affirmation. It’s any and all of the reasons we do it. And while that daily run isn’t always a life-changing epic experience, it always feels good. And it’s always better than the days we don’t run. And that’s why we keep doing it. And yet we really only know how meaningful a single trail run is on the rare and unfortunate days when we don’t or can’t hit the dirt.

Because we’re human, we sometimes let life get in the way. Sometimes we accidentally or foolishly sleep through — or work through — a chance the start a new day by meeting the sunrise on a run. It’s never with malice, but it happens. Sometimes it’s because of the weather. Sometimes it’s because of work. Sometimes it’s because of a family member’s needs. Sometimes there’s no real reason at all. And sometimes even when we do run, we’re just not present in the moment and running is a just grind, unable to transcend the physical movements into something more special.

But therein lies the beauty of the trail running and the reset button every single day can provide. Every sunrise is a new beginning, a chance to be better than you were the day before. And that means every day is a new opportunity to lace up our shoes and write a new story with a new outcome. And that’s a lesson that can be continually re-learned, both on a daily basis and habitually over the arc of a lifetime.

The next morning when my alarm buzzed at 5:25 a.m., I was already up and dressed for a pre-dawn trail run with a friend. It was a simple five-miler on mild terrain, but let’s just say watching the full moon set against the cobalt sky of western horizon as the sun rose on the glowing blood-orange sky of the eastern horizon made my day.

Brian Metzler was the founding editor of Trail Runner and now serves as a contributing editor.