I almost always run on the “rail to trail” that is near our house. The Monon is flat, paved, and predictable. I know how far it is from Rohrer Road to 161st street and back. My feet remember the rise and fall of the overpass at 146th St. I can run at an even pace for miles. It’s my most comfortable running place. But today I decided to switch it up. This beautiful spring day is the kickoff of my most recent accountability group. I posed a challenge to the participants inspired by this graphic- Step away from our routines, habits, comfort zones and try something new. Even if it’s just for today. I remember reading little things like changing up what wrist you wear your watch on or how you drive home from work can help to create new neural pathways. Changing your behavior can actually have the power to change the way your brain operates. So today I drove past my usual parking spot at the Monon and drove over to Cool Creek Park. The trails at the park are not anything like the Monon. They are winding and hilly and, in early spring, exceptionally muddy. Thankfully I had put on my old pair of running shoes! Normally I know the exact mileage that I will be running for the day. Short 3 mile runs for tempo, longer runs for endurance. After checking out the map to see what my options were for running, I decided to let my feet be my guide. I started my Pandora streaming radio and set off. Half a mile in, the dreaded “buffering” started. Another difference between these trails and the Monon is the availability of cellular service. I tried to switch stations, use Spotify, iTunes radio before I took my headphones out and let the sounds of nature be my playlist. It was incredible to hear the birds chirping as the park is coming to life this time of year. The steady cadence of my steps, the sound of the wind through the bare trees. I began to notice my irregular breathing and tried to even it. Slow, steady, rhythmic breaths. Slowly, I began to think of how this run was so different from my normal. So far outside of “me”. My shoes were caked with mud, I did not have my course set out before me, I wasn’t listening for the voice inside the Nike Running app to tell me my current pace and mileage. I was just running. Up and down the muddy terrain, jumping over the fallen branches in the path and stepping into some unavoidable mud puddles.
I always think of myself as a Type A, control freak, non spontaneous person. I love schedules and lists and agendas. I feel better when I know on Monday that Saturday’s dinner will be pulled pork, baked beans and a salad. I crave order. For most of my adult life, I have told myself this is who I was created to be. God had created me to be a person who needed structure and routine. I was designed like the Monon. Today’s run made me think what if I am also a little bit like those trails at Cool Creek? What if I was created to be someone who could go off the beaten trail, take life more in stride, and be open for an adventure at a moment’s notice? My grandmother used to keep a suitcase packed in her trunk just in case she was asked to go on a last minute trip. Perhaps that spontaneity is somewhere buried in my DNA. Perhaps I have created myself to be this person. Perhaps God had created me to be something different but these walls I built have prevented me from experiencing that side of myself. Do we fool ourselves into believing who we are was predestined and unable to be changed? Are some of us created to be organized, spontaneous, adventurous, cautious and others not, just like being left or right handed? Is there any truth in the Right vs. Left Brained theory? During that run those questions swirled in my mind. I do not know the answers but I do know that run through those trails was just as comfortable as my miles on flat even ground. That run inspired me to think of myself as something different even if it’s just for a day. To shake it up. Near the end of my run I found this beautiful swing… It was quiet, set back in the woods, and tucked along the creek. So I sat and swung and listened to the birds calling to one another and the creek rushing over the rocks. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe every smell into my soul. I thought of the amazing gift of silence and solitude. Perhaps God uses those moments when we are stepping outside of our normal, choosing to do something different, to reveal a part of Him to us. Reveal His beauty and stillness and peace. I would have never found that spot had I only laced up on the Monon. My run would have still been done, I would have a been happy with myself for checking something off the “to-do” list for the day. But the gift of that place encourages me to shake it up more often. See where else God can reveal Himself when we choose the muddy trail.