For a long time, I hated running. It held no joy. It was an exercise to do, a chore to perform. It was work, and it hurt. The best moment of a run tended to be when it was over. The value of running was a means to an end: enhanced fitness, which meant increased performance in the mountains or at least better health. But as an end unto itself, as something to be done for hours on end, no.
Enter life, a.k.a, marriage, work, children, a mortgage. All freely chosen. Each a source of joy. Each a constraint on the hours spent in the hills. Gone were the endless summer road trips; fading was the perpetual weekend warrior. Gradually the gym replaced the crag, and the dirtbag was swapped out for the diaper bag.
Unwilling to relinquish my time in the mountains, running found me. It came as an invitation: 34 miles on the Copper Ridge Loop in the North Cascades. My response: sure, how hard could it be? Turns out it was pretty hard. But it was also beautiful, freeing, invigorating, and pivotal. It changed the physical and psychological map of what moving in the mountains could be. What was once a multi-day backpacking trip became an afternoon crush. A vest replaced a heavy pack. And a couple of hours getting lost on cold, wet, dark scrappy trails satiated a fix for adventure. Running gifted me the fitness to go further and faster and saturated me with the serotonin I needed to show up as a better father and partner.
Thousands of miles later, is running still work? Yes. Is it always fun? No. The best moment of any run may still be when it’s over but running as a practice has transformed my life. The ritual, the trails, the seasons, the discipline, the pain, the suffering, the friendships, all of it is in me and flows through me as I move my body, fill my lungs, and listen to my heartbeat. Some days it’s a shuffle, sometimes a sprint, and often it’s a power hike up a long hill. Whatever form the run takes, wherever it takes me, it’s all a process and a journey, an invitation to break out of the grind and claim the time and space to be fully in control, fully in the moment, and fully in the flow. So, the next time the universe invites you to go for a run, the only answer is yes.
Abram Dickerson is the owner/principal at Aspire Adventure Running. As a husband, father, and entrepreneur, he attempts to live his life with intention and purpose. He loves mountains and the friendships that result from the suffering and satisfaction of running, skiing, and climbing in wild places.