Crossing Paths

We all have a running trajectory. It can start at different times, and it may be a long, slow bell curve, or a steep, sharp climb and then a dramatic fall. Sometimes the curve stops suddenly and then starts again after 10 or 20 years.

My line started as a punishment for a bad wrestling practice or getting my ass kicked in a match, which led to me being a frequent runner and joining the track team. It stopped after high school, then started again about 20 years ago, took a turn up, and now it feels like a long line that is gradually trending downward.

There are dots on those lines. The races, the training runs that brought me to tears, the beauty that I would have missed if I hadn’t picked up running, the long talks, and the bonds that are welded together out on the trail.

My kids are starting their own lines, their own paths that I hope will continue on a long, sustained upward slope, but I’m okay with it if they don’t.

Sometimes our lines cross.

My son came home with these multi-colored Adidas “lifestyle” running shoes and he wanted to test them out. His coach gave him a homework assignment to take a parent on a run over the weekend. Smart coach.

We headed out and ran to the top of a big hill. Reaching the top, we found these huge Yucca plant spears that had been left to dry out in the middle of the trail. They were big and looked heavy, but if you picked them up, they felt like those movie props made out of foam. We launched them like javelins into the knee-high scrub until we couldn’t see them anymore.

We ran again, towards the sun and a winding downhill singletrack. I bombed it, and waited for my son at the bottom, then we ran together.

A mile or so into the run I asked him if he wanted to go home, and he thought it was too short of a run. He suggested we take another trail. We’d done it before, and it’s more of a game trail than a running route and it involves climbing over some rocks and holding onto some tree branches or risk sliding 100 or so feet down a steep hill.

It’s not the type of route that looks good on Strava or if you’re counting miles, or tracking speed, but it’s the type of route that you remember years after you’ve run it.

His fresh out of the box bright and colorful shoes were now dusted light dirt-brown and we compared the blood scratches that crisscrossed over our shins and knees. We heard some rustling down the hill below. We threw small rocks in the general direction to see if the coyote or the mountain lion, or most likely the small rabbit would show itself, but whatever it was didn’t make another sound.

We followed a stream, slowly picking our way through tall reeds, then climbed up a steep drainage ditch.

We finally made it back to a runnable trail at the top of a dead-end and I told him the story of how I was mountain biking when I first moved to the area and was trying to discover new routes when I hit this same dead-end. There was a parked pickup truck and as I was turning my bike around, a guy’s head popped up from the back and then a girl and they didn’t have all their clothes on and they were embarrassed and said hi as I tried to turn my bike around faster and I gave them an awkward wave and said something like “carry on,” but for some reason I said it in a British accent. My son looked at me, puzzled, and then he just laughed.

On the run down the hill he told me how much he loved his new running shoes and I told him that new shoes are magic. They add a small burst of speed for the first couple runs. We hurdled a log and we raced the 100 yards back to the trailhead. I spotted him 3 seconds and we finished close…I may have have edged him out by a fraction and then we walked the block home.

It wasn’t a long run, two miles max. We climbed, stopped, and told stories, but it was the best run I’ve had in awhile.

Soon he will be faster than me and we won’t stop to throw Yucca javelins or follow snake tracks, because he’ll have a mileage goal to hit, and I’ll do my best to keep up, and I’ll remember with a smile that day when our running trajectories lined up at the perfect spot.

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