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April 21, 2006

Birth of a Trail Runner

Occasionally I get the opportunity to introduce a fellow runner to my favorite local place to run: Garland Ranch Regional Park in Carmel Valley.

I’ve been running through this 4500-acre preserve for more than a decade, and my love for the hills and trails has not diminished with the passing years. If anything, my familiarity with each trail and pond and rock formation has helped me appreciate the area even more than when I first explored it.

Taking someone into the park with me is frequently a symbolic stage in my relationship with that person. For some reason, I feel more kindred with somebody after running through these trails than I do when running together on the roads.

I feel the most peaceful, the closest to my true self when I’m on the trails. So if running with someone on the roads is like dating, then taking that person to Garland Ranch is like bringing him or her home to meet the family. It’s like the first hometown date on The Bachelor – the best opportunity for the other person to get an accurate snapshot of the person I really am, for better or worse.

Therefore, just like when I was dating, I’m somewhat selective about whom I take with me into this setting. And yesterday, I brought somebody with me to run the trails for the first time.

Yesterday, I ran in the park with my son.

We hadn’t done any running together since last week’s 5K workout. In the meantime, he hasn’t complained of any leg pain, and just for good measure, I bought him a new pair of running shoes. (And since I put a picture of my own shoes here a couple months ago, I figure I’d do the same for him. So here they are…)

(Same question I asked about my own shoes – do they look fast?)

Since the Big Sur 5K course has some trails, I figured we needed to do some training in the dirt. He has been in Garland Ranch before on his bike, but the majority of the park is off-limits to bikes, so running was his opportunity to see things and go places that were completely new to him.

We ran on a couple of my favorite trails, and he enjoyed hopping over rocks and maneuvering around roots and branches as we went along. We met his sisters and mother for a rest break at the “waterfall” (not a real waterfall - just a trickle of water down a rock face. But the name sounds cool, doesn’t it?), then resumed our adventure on a couple more single track paths on the way back to the car.

I have no idea how far we ran. It was probably close to three miles, including all the walking breaks. I wasn’t at all concerned about the distance.

More important to me was the number of times he said “Cool!”, or “This is fun!”, or “I like this” as we were winding our way through the trees. When we finished, he said he liked trail running a lot better than laps at the track, because he likes to “see all the nature.”

Last week’s workout convinced us that the kid is capable of finishing next weekend’s 5K. But yesterday’s run might have done something even more important: it planted the seed in him that perhaps there is more benefit and enjoyment to be had from this activity besides just entering and finishing races.

He also gained some awareness of what I do on the weekend mornings while he's still resting in bed. The next time I come home muddy and sweaty, he'll understand what I've been doing and why I enjoy it. Maybe he has a better sense of the type of person his Dad really is.

He's discovering things in himself and in nature that he hadn't known before. He's learning things about his father that I could never teach him by merely talking. Best of all, he appears to be enjoying himself along the way.

Call it another beautiful run in Garland Ranch.


backofpack 4/21/06, 10:21 AM  

You and I must have a similar schedule because it seems as though I'm usually one of the first to comment...and today I was reading your post with a huge grin on my face. First for the dating comparison and best of all, once you said it was your son! I think you both had one of those defining moments in life when you shared a run on the trail.

jeff 4/21/06, 10:46 AM  

donald, this gave me chills. your son is going to turn out to be a fine man, of that i have no doubt.

olga 4/21/06, 11:58 AM  

How fantastic that is! And his reaction is just great! Hey, may be we can meet at Miwok, if you care to come run there? Bring your son, may be he'll be running ultras before you:) The picture of trail looks yummy!

angie's pink fuzzy 4/21/06, 12:37 PM  


Always our destination when I was a kid. I miss Garland Ranch. When I was growing up, there was never even a trickle. It was always dry! I also enjoyed going to what I called the fern pond (not sure of it's exact name).

Awesome, a new trail runner. And the shoes look fast to me :)a

stronger 4/21/06, 3:17 PM  

chills on this one!

Kim 4/21/06, 3:55 PM  

We used to hunt for pollywogs at Garland Ranch. My mom would never let me bring them home though. :)
And like Angie, most of the time the waterfall was dry when we'd go out...every once in a while we'd get lucky though. But with all the rain this year, I bet it's beautiful.

robtherunner 4/21/06, 4:21 PM  

Man, at the beginning I thought I was going to have to get in touch with your wife and tell her what is going on when you go running on trails. Thankfully your reputation is upheld as usual.

Darrell 4/22/06, 12:19 AM  

The trail looks wonderful. Very cool that you shared it with your son.

BuckeyeRunner 4/24/06, 4:34 AM  

What a great post. Glad that your son had fun - his shoes DO look fast!!

Deene 4/26/06, 7:45 AM  

i have similar thoughts about trail running - peaceful, spiritual, even better when it's snowing or rainining.

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