There is a 5K out-and-back I have run hundreds of times over the past four years – a familiar distance, a reliable quick workout, a dose of the magic of celebrated Lithia Park that conveniently began and ended at my doorstep. Typically in solitude, sometimes with input from music or an audiobook and often focused on pace, trying to be a little faster than previous. Occasionally the “out” would serve as the entry way to a longer run up into the hills, chasing friends with greater gifts for navigation of the endless miles of trails.
More recently, on a walk with a friend on this same stretch of land, embracing a shift in pace that has presented itself more frequently in the past year, I was shocked to discover both a road I had never before seen and a massive tree trunk, now crafted into a throne in the woods. Once seen, it seemed impossible to have overlooked them for all the passes in such close proximity, leading me to wonder how I had missed them and what else I might incidentally be ignoring.
I have learned the hard way that for as much as one might enjoy the beautiful surroundings, running trail requires a significant amount of focus on the ground, mapping out a clear path for footfalls to avoid an ankle roll or a full-body tumble (ie the hard way, complete with bleeding knees and shredded gloves). As such, I am well acquainted with the subtle changes in elevation, contours of the turns, noticing the placement of new woodchips, uncovered rocks from increased utilization but apparently less so with landmarks above ground level.
Self-preservation is a basic human instinct. Surviving on the trail, or in daily life, is an understandable baseline essential. It can also be a limited and limiting state of being, keeping us captive in our life and blinding us to the broader experience – of the world, of others, of the potential for ourselves.
There is enough margin on either side of the tree trunk that it never obstructed my path until the day of our walk, when it was particularly busy at the time we passed through, forcing us to pause, wait and then make our way around. How many obstacles do we consider insignificant until they impact us directly? Can we change our pace and acknowledge the opportunity of interruption to enhance our understanding?
My out and back always covered the same course – I never needed an alternate route, leaving that road out of my scope of necessity. It wasn’t until my friend pointed it out as a challenging part of her experience racing cross-country in these trails that I even noticed it. What if this was a forced detour for many? What if this was a beautiful path to explore and could change my entire experience of the park?
May we seek to acknowledge, appreciate and understand the broader perspective – for self, for patients, for community, for world, for better, for worse, for obstacles, for opportunity, for equity, for the best health of all.