“So does everybody feel ready?” I looked around. All I could see was glaring headlamps and a whole lot of reflective gear. I wasn’t even sure exactly who each of the nervous laughs belonged to. Slowly we started walking up my driveway away from the soft lights of my house and towards the trails of nearby Galbraith Mountain in the pitch black of night.
Early in the year when the ad for Ragnar Trail Cascades had popped up on my news feed it had sounded like an exciting adventure. I easily got caught up in the idea of camping out under the stars with my friends AND going for an epic run. Without thinking too much about it I asked if anyone wanted to do it with me. To my surprise within a week we had a full team and were registered under the name of Sole Sisters.
At first it felt like the race was years away. Everyone was on track with their training as we moved steadily through the summer towards our September race date. Then August rolled around and with the race only a month away we still hadn’t tackled the one thing that we had all said scared us the most – running the trails at night.
What was it about night running that seemed so scary? It’s not as if we didn’t run those trails all the time in the daylight! Animals, sketchy people, roots, getting lost. What if I died out there and left my children motherless! All of these things crossed my mind. I admit it, there was this big nebulous cloud of fear that surrounded me that I hadn’t exactly defined or even been willing to look too closely at.
It had to be done. So on that August night we slowly picked up the pace and turned onto the trails.
These were my stomping grounds so I was out front a little leading the way. There was some nervous chatter at first but the conversation picked up as we found our rhythm and moved deeper into the darkness of bigger trees. I was listening to my team mates talk and laugh and as we moved further and further through the dark I felt my heart swelling for these amazing women I was with. With them I felt braver, I felt stronger, I felt adventurous!
I found myself unable to stop smiling. An owl hooted at the edge of the woods and in that moment I did not feel a single ounce of fear – just an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be in this place at this moment sharing it with the owls and friends that I love. “Who gets to do this?” I remember thinking as our trail led us out into a clear cut. We were running through a sea of stars, through the cool sweet night air, past towering foxglove.
Towards the end of the run there is a bench at an overlook. We stopped there to look at the lights of the town of Bellingham in the distance below. Our run was at the height of the Pleiades meteor shower and we stopped and watched as shooting stars blazed across the sky. I felt completely alive and utterly happy.
We did a number of night training runs after that and I looked forward to every single one. The next month we road-tripped to eastern Washington and ran in the race. Everyone pushed themselves and did great and I felt so incredibly proud to be part of it! I will never forget it. But I will also never forget that first time we took a deep breath, stepped out into the unknown and went night running.
I wonder how often we avoid taking that run in other parts of our lives. It is so easy to let our fears get the best of us! Or not be willing to even take a close look at what they are. It is so easy to feel alone and not ask to lean on the people who make us stronger and braver and more adventurous.
The next time I come up against something that scares me but is calling to me will remember that I am a night runner! I will look that fear directly in the eye, rally the people who love me and push me, and I will push on through. Through to the awe that I know is waiting just on the other side.