I love to run. But not in the fashion that most people think. I despise that exercise form that involves fancy shoes, sidewalks, and paved roads. Don't give me that kind of running. I don't want to pace myself; don't want to be rhythmically pumping my legs as I stomp on hard surfaces. No, I RUN.
It's a bit of a walk up to the old cow barn. The ground is pockmarked from cattle of long ago, and voles from last year. the dead grass from last summer stands gaunt and off kilter; blackberry brambles hide amidst it, waiting to snare unsuspecting ankles. Branches fallen from ancient oak trees lie buried beneath a layer of decomposing leaves. It's all uphill to the cow barn.
And I run this terrain.
I got tired of walking to the cow barn. It took a long time. So I started running it. This is no mamsy-pamsy, paced jog. This is a flat out, something's-after-me, run. And I love it. I've been watching this fallow land of 98 acres for five years. I've studied it in all it's seasons. I know it every bit as well as I know the one acre that I live on. I can show you all the deer trails, where the Redtail hawks make their nests, where you'll find the most snakes, where the biggest nettle patch is... I can show you where the clay soil is, where it changes to sandy loam, and then changes to rich soil. I know where the oldest tree is, where the coyotes gather for a hunting spree. I can show you where the owls live, where the deer bunk down and sleep, where the marshes start and end. I know this land. And I run it.
I may not be the fastest runner in the world. If running on the road with someone, I'd probably get left behind. But if you want to race me home from the far corner of my neighbor's land, then you had better lace your shoes tightly; 'cause I just might leave you behind. I'll use the deer trails to my advantage, since I know where they are, and know that they offer the flattest running ground and have good traction on them. I'll take a shortcut past the cow barn, because I know a path is hiding there. I know where the holes are, and how to avoid them. I know where to jump the brambles. I know to follow the shallow stream in the marshes since I won't get bogged down by the rushes, which will happen if you try to run through that soggy ground any other way. I also know that there's only one way out of those marshes; where the rusty barbed wire has been cut. If you don't know that one spot, then you're going to spend a bit of time trying to find your way out.
Running on uneven ground like this may seem foolish, and most likely dangerous, to many people. I could sprain my ankle, or fall and hurt myself. All this whirls through my mind as I sprint through tall grasses at breakneck speed. But I love this risk taking. I love the running. I love it that I can so effortlessly speed through open land and forest, and know where to place my feet. I know this land. For a long time I feared this place. These 98 acres. Bad things were always happening up here. We got lost, our dog got stuck in an illegally placed trap, I fell through a window in the cow barn and landed on glass; shattering it and cutting myself (long story; happened a few years ago)... I watched the land change, but kept my distance from it. Now I run it. I'm on that parcel of dirt most every day.
Running through this wild ground is so much more fun to me than running on a road ever could be. I'll probably never be like my sisters who run up the road every day in practice for some 5K (or whatever those are called...). Long distance running doesn't agree with me. But sprinting through untamed land? Bring it on. This is my style of exercise.