From the moment I leave the car the trail is up. I run. But I quickly exceed my body’s oxygen-exchange capacity which is already strained here at 6,600. I gasp for air, still trying to run, but my running looks more like the “grandma shuffle”. My heart rate is well past the target zone. I have to walk.
There’s a few places where the trail goes level or down for, maybe, a hundred yards. My overall pace is so painfully slow that I can’t rest on those short downhills. I have to take every opportunity for speed to mitigate against that horrific pace, now well over 10 min/km. My fastest time at sea level is 5:07 min/km.
The trail rises over 800 ft in less than 3 miles. I round a corner and look up the valley, North Cheyenne Canyon, it’s called. I can see snow on the peaks ahead, the smaller sisters of the Pikes Peak herd – looking down from over 10,000 ft. above.
My left knee starts to hurt. My right shin / ankle already ache. And my gasps for air echo the gasping of my soul. For hope, for respite, for something I’m not even sure of.
All that is behind my soul seems so powerful to damn me. Things from 45 years ago till things from just this weekend threaten to gag my soul like the mucus that clogs my throat and threatens to choke out the little bit of air coming in. And it seems utter foolish to continue this run uphill. “Look where you’re going! You’re going no where. It’s cold up there, snow up there, LESS oxygen up there toward where you’re going. You’re a Fool.” Yes, the voices of past criticizers, and ones from even more dark and powerful places. If I listen to these voices I will stop, turn around, drop my head, walk back down to my car and find a way to end my life. I am running for my life.
Because something tells me there is reason to push upward. You can’t see it with the eyes of the flesh. It looks too high, it looks too far, it looks too cold. But the thing that pushes me on is a voice more powerful than the one calling me “fool.” There is something up there you cannot see yet, you cannot hear yet, you cannot touch or smell yet. But it’s there. And it’s good.
Tears run down my face. Wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked… yes. But I am more than the sum of those things. There is Care for me up there, ahead. So I run on. And I still believe.