Tuesday morning the trail dog and I set out for our first ever solo run into the dark trails. We parked at 0535 and headed east toward the flood wall and eventually made it to the Poop Loop. We scared some kind of animal shortly into the run, maybe a fox? I have no idea since it was too dark. Chevy usually sticks close to me in the dark yet that morning he re-found an animal skull I had thrown into the greenery sometime last week so he’s not scared of the dark when a skull is to be found!
For months I have been working up the courage to run on the dark trails on my own, without anyone else in front of or behind me. Months is not an exaggeration. I have driven to the trailhead only to turn around and go home, waiting to run when there was more light. I’ve hemmed and hawed. I have given myself all sorts of excuses. I have psyched myself out by imagining all the creatures lurking in the dark. We’re in the heart of the city, the only wildlife lurking are deer, the occasional fox, lots of opossums and raccoons, I have smelled a skunk once or twice and always plenty of spiders. Snakes aren’t as active at night because they’re sleeping somewhere warm, right? That is my logic anyway.
I reminded myself how well I know the trails here; that I can tell you when things have shifted, if a new path has formed, when there is a new tree you’ll have to climb over, etc. I know where every single rock and root are hiding in the dirt.* Then I reminded myself that I haven’t been afraid in the woods when I’m camping or sleeping alone in my tent or that time I slept under a picnic table.
And then I reminded myself I have done these “scary” things and somehow survived.
Fuck fear. It lies.
Fear keeps you compliant. Small. Hidden behind a smoke screen, experiencing life with the sound muted.
The idea of running 10 miles on the road simply because I was allowing fear to stop me from doing what I love most was the motivation I needed to get my ass out there. (Funny thing is I used to be afraid of running solo on the road in the dark, too.) Fear of the dark and what I can’t see in that darkness has been stopping me. Surely something bad is coming when I can’t see what is about to happen, right? So I don’t even try because then I can avoid the anxiety of not knowing.
This is an uncanny metaphoric parallel to how so many of us approach life whether we realize it or not. We allow fear of the unknown to stop us from applying for that job. Or asking that person out on a date. Or moving on to the next great chance. Or signing up for that dance class we’ve been wanting to try. Or allowing ourselves to relax in our relationships. Or asking a friend for a much needed hug. Or (insert your own here). There are so many ‘what ifs’ we talk ourselves out of the possibilities before we give it a chance to prove us wrong.
Doubt feeds into fear and fear is being afraid that what could happen will be bad or uncomfortable. But there’s also a 50/50 chance what might happen will be fantastic and fun. Or you can shift your perspective and tell yourself if it’s uncomfortable, you’re growing. If nothing else, you’ll have a great story to tell others when the time arises.
My general philosophy is if it’s freaking me out, that’s what I need to do.
Which is how Chevy and I found ourselves at the trailhead on Tuesday morning before the sun rose.
*I know what you are thinking: not enough to keep me from tripping and falling over them, though.