My mom, a reinvigorated runner at 71 years old, reported to me recently that several years ago when she was running consistently a rather unfit colleague asked her flippantly “Why do you do all that running?”. She thought for a moment and then said “well so that I can do the things that I like to do.” Those things were run 5k and 10k races, hike in the national parks, site see in Great Britain, Italy, Spain, walk the dogs, climb stairs with ease….or in other words live life to the fullest with no worry about debilitating health issues.
What a great point. I can’t really say that I have ever run because it is necessarily healthy for me. Early in my running career it was to improve, then to run certain times, then to qualify for certain things. But in those endeavors I realized the power of achieving an elite fitness level. The lure of distance running can be simply the feeling of empowerment. When one has the ability to run 20 miles at a decent pace with little effort, to run trail runs that ascend from 7500 feet to nearly 11,000 feet with no water, sports gel or really anything but a watch or to know, like my friend Maurya, that if you get stuck at work in an ice storm in a city with no ability to handle ice, you can run home in about 20 hours faster than others.
So that brings me to this summer. I had the opportunity to attend Jeff Galloway’s running retreat in Squaw Valley California. It was an fantastic experience in an amazing place. However, I also realized I was only about 3 ½ hours from Yosemite National Park. Yosemite has been on my bucket list for years. I had been to Yosemite before. The problem is that I drove past the park in the dark. At the time I figured I would be back in the next couple of years and thus I vowed to return. Sixteen years later I still had not returned. So, while at this retreat, I heard the advice of my old man….
At 5:30am, in true “Just Go” fashion, I grabbed my running shoes, an inadequate amount of water and a few mini Baby Ruth bars and jumped in the car. I drove as fast as I could to get to the park. After 3 ½ hours I had arrived at the park entrance. As I inched my way up to the ranger at the entrance gate he asked me “So where in the park are you trying to get to?”
“Ideally I want to get to the Valley,” I responded, thinking of John Muir's exploits and Ansel Adams’ photographs.
“Well from here it is a FOUR hour drive to get to the valley due to the fire detour,” he stated and handed me a supplemental map. What the hell! There was zero chance I was going to drive an additional 4 hours. I drove into the park determined to find an alternate plan. I pulled into the first visitor center and sought out another ranger.
“I need a trail, regardless of difficulty, that will get me to a good view of the valley and Half Dome,” I desperately asked a young ranger. He looked me over and could tell I was fairly serious and then leafed through his stack of papers.
“Okay, I think you will like the trail to North Dome. It has an incredible view of Half Dome and the Valley. But, it is 5 miles one way, therefore 10 miles total.” He went on to explain how to get to the trail head and basics about the trail.
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