My first attempt at trail running was fraught with fear.
I want to flash back to 2006 for a minute.
Lindsey (my wife and then girlfriend) and I were hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a short 4.6 mile trail to Cub Lake which I had hiked as a kid when visiting my dad. (Side note: This trail has the potential for astounding views of elk herds in the summer months) We were taking our time on our leisurely stroll when we realized “we have not seen anyone on this trail.”
Nowadays we are much more seasoned hikers and would have no problem with being alone on a hiking trail (in fact we would probably welcome it!). We have been out in the wilderness miles from human beings, we have hiked to the top of sketchy looking mountains; generally we are more comfortable being out in the woods. Back in 2006, no one on the trail meant an uneasy Chris and Lindsey. At the end of our hike we had planned to sit down by Cub Lake and have a nice romantic picnic (I know how to treat a lady…even though we got engaged at a place called Hillbilly Hill…). Our plans were interrupted by a loud GRUNT coming from the bushes a few yards away. Instantly we abandoned our plans and took off from whence we came.
Now this is one of the occasions we laugh about. A stupid noise scared us away. In our minds we were like “Cub Lake…oh shit it must be a bear…RUN!” when in reality it was probably a harmless mule deer or elk. We threw away a perfectly good afternoon and quite possibly an amazing wildlife viewing experience because we were scared. Our minds focused on a scenario that was completely unlikely to actually occur.
It was “Worst Situation” thinking. You know where you assume the worst thing WILL happen.
Your logical mind knows that the “worst situation” is also the “most unlikely situation” but you just can’t let that thought go. Your heart rate goes up and you start producing stress hormones. Your thoughts actually manifest themselves into your physical body and you begin freaking the hell out.
With this in mind, let’s go back to my first trail run.
I had just moved to Virginia from Iowa. In Iowa there are not many animals that can kill you. We have farm animals, squirrels, rabbits, ducks, and deer….lots and lots of deer (although twice a year you will hear a “my brother’s best friend’s boss’s daughter” saw a bear behind the elementary school).
In Virginia you have deadly animals in the form of copperheads (more about these in a future articles) and bears. Supposedly a crap ton of bears.
Being a new Virginian I assumed that stepping into the woods pretty much guaranteed me stumbling upon a bear.
The only thought in my mind during my first trail run was “what do I do if I round a corner and see a bear?” Every step I would just imagine a bear eating my face off. I could not let the thought out of my mind. I was quite literally running scared.
The illogical “worst case scenario” situation had consumed my mind. “Welp, you are going to die via bear-mauling during this run.” Dwelling and dwelling and dwelling on this imagined future.
Then I began laughing at my speciousness. What the hell was I so worried about? A realization came over me:
Living life in a constant state of fear is illogical and pointless.
Fear can cripple you. It can prevent you from doing so many things you really want to do in life. Do NOT let fear keep you from your potential. Do NOT let it prevent you from being the person you are meant to be.
Yes there could be a bear on the trail, but what is the point of worrying about that unless I run across that situation? You can spend all the time worrying about your future and all of those situations that may or may not actually happen or you can just chill out and enjoy the moment you are in- the only moment that you are guaranteed.
I had already ruined a beautiful afternoon with my wife because of a stupid fear, I was not going to let it ruin another potentially awesome moment in my life! I let go of the idea of bears and continued running in peace instead of fear.
And guess what?
I still haven’t seen a damn bear on the trail!
(P.S. – This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what to do if encountering a bear…please learn because the boy scouts and Scar from Lion King taught us to “be prepared.”)