Why I Accomplished ‘Nothing’ Today

Why I Accomplished “Nothing” Today
 (A stream of consciousness that came to me during my run)
by Maggie Hillis

A hiker visiting from Memphis fell off Signal Mountain to his death late last night/early this morning. That’s really horrible, and I feel for his loved ones and hate that his life was cut so short and I hope those last few minutes were filled with awe and wonder and the same breathlessness I feel every time I stand in a spot very much like the one where he was when he fell, which is often.

That has absolutely nothing to do with why I failed to accomplish anything today on my endless list of things I have to do during this two weeks out of a cumulative 3 months I will spend at home this year.

It did, however, pass into my mind as I was planning my route for the day:

Riverside or mountain…

Flat and fast 10k on a paved route convenient to where I need to be later or whatever I  can muster that will be at all more than what I did the other day on that mountain…

Rest my muscles or push myself harder…

Will there be a lot of people…

Do I crave the encouragement of other runners or the solitude of my own thoughts today in the on and off drizzle and falling leaves….

flowing water or falling leaves…

pavement or gravel….

I have a lot to do today, I really shouldn’t go far…

I chose the wide flat slow climb up the mountain. It’s not too far out of my way. It’s a perfect, quite drizzly day for the mountain. And as I start out I think about how on this particular trail it would really take some effort to fall to one’s death. I’m safe. I even left a note with a hand drawn map of my route on the kitchen table, and donned my running safety vest just in case. I always carry my phone.

Now, focus.

My form is good, I’m watching my step for unsteady ground and potential trip/ ankle twisting hazards. I perfect my breathing. I visually gage my half mile point in the distance, then mile one- focusing, pushing…this hurts a little, but in a good way, and I can keep going. No one’s here. I am not in a race. I can stop and rest every half mile if I want. I can even walk some. This is my run. The important thing is that I finish. Finish what? I decide on 5 miles.

After a mile it gets harder, steeper, the terrain rougher, but the focus and the push slowly fade as I adjust, balancing heart rate, cadence, and breath till I don’t realize I’m doing it. I slowly forget I’m doing anything at all….

Leaves whisper as the negligible breeze carries them earthward…

Autumn seems to have come late this year, I guess, I haven’t been around….

I would have been fine in a T-shirt. That’s ok, my vented tech fabric is nice and sweat is good for you…

A rain cloud is following me but from the right angle…I’m on the cool side, the lee of the negligible breeze…I could right a parody of that Cat Stevens song “Moonshadow” called “Rainshadow…”

(I do, in fact, write a parody)

Wow. I have this whole mountain to myself! Just wow. I bet that’s how that kid who died last night felt…

I should email my boss…

I should look over my investment options while I have money…

Do I take that apartment or continue to stay with family when I’m here for free…space or money…peace or convenience…

Am I doing what’s best for my child…am I doing what’s best for me….how mutually exclusive are those things?

Maybe I should just get an RV…or wait till after the holidays…

Maybe I should quit ignoring my slightly injured leg…maybe the pain will go away if I keep ignoring it…

I was supposed to call multiple doctors today and research new insurance plans. I can do that when I’m-

Suddenly I’m 3 miles up the  mountain, sort of accidentally, and realize the next 3 are all downhill, and that my 5 miles turned into a 10K and I don’t care what Strava says, there is no way this is not my best 10K ever. And up (and down) a mountain at that. I hate hills. I loathe hills on the road but I suddenly realize my love of mountains overpowers this loathing by far. I suddenly realize I want to run on mountains all the time.

When I check Strava later I have 7 accomplishments including my best 5 mile ever and I could have opened my stride and drastically improved my split time on the downhill stretch but who cares? That was my reward. I pushed myself up and enjoyed the ride down, and still did great, still a few personal records only worth mentioning to other avid runners. And, it’s the longest I’ve run since my half marathon almost 3 months ago right before my “injury.” It’s only 6 miles, but it’s good to be back.

I sit in my car after my cool down, waiting for the endorphin rush to subside a little because it actually makes me feel like I’m in no shape to drive. Is this that lactic acid crash I hear so much about? I think you’re supposed to do something about that, but I never do. It feels awesome. It’s like what I imagine a morphine drip with a hint of psychedelic mushrooms might be. I wonder why anyone ever does drugs. This is so much better.

Suddenly it’s 3:50 and by the time I get anywhere it will be too late to do anything on my list. Maybe an email, maybe a phone call. I was supposed to meet someone, sort of, at some point…

Instead I get coffee and sit down to write. And then it starts pouring outside. I have hated driving in the rain ever since that first accident I had at 16. I still never trust tires and brakes on wet pavement, especially with leaves. Those conditions are meant for pedestrian traffic. Languid walks in the rain alone or with an adventurous loved one, or emotionally driven, angsty, cathartic, empowering bursts of athleticism. So I grab an everything bagel with egg and cheese and head home.

I have so many things to do. So many things. I just spent 5 months far, far away. 6 days a week, 11 hours a day at work; an endless repeat of days in which I attempt to accomplish  the same set of tasks over and over till I finally, one day, manage to get them all done and done right. I have been living the movie “Groundhog Day.”

I have people to see. So much time to spend with people I’ve left, and the few I ever really miss. I have a matter of days to coldly pencil them all in. But I need time with me. I have missed me most of all.

I need silence I haven’t had in months. I need a whole mountain to myself. So what do I do today? Nothing. Nothing at all, except for 6.2 miles.

 

me on beachMy name is Maggie, I’m from Chattanooga, TN, and I’m an archaeologist. I travel about 9 months out of the year for work. I started running in November 2013 because I wanted to be able to get a good workout wherever I am, despite money or access to a hotel gym. My work is physically strenuous but the schedule is unreliable, and I was determined to stay in shape between projects. I couldn’t run 100 yards at when I started running, but I soon fell in love. I have now completed 2 half marathons, and have a strenuous 15 mile trail race planned this weekend. My goal to run ultras and beyond, and particularly love tackling mountains.

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