Back to 7,220 feet above sea level.
Back to thinner air and colder ground.
Back to Ponderosa Pines and granite rock and elk poop in the yard.
Within an hour of pulling into the driveway, I hastily pulled on my full-length spandex, added some YakTrax to the Pearl Izumis and hit the trails like I was back to see an old friend, which they precisely are.
The snow at Elk Meadow had been wind-whipped and the dry air had rendered a crunchy surface. In the places where it wasn’t a little iced over, it sunk up to my shins. It was cold and I was happy.
I didn’t really notice the change in elevation, not too bad anyway. I would later lie and say ‘oh yeah! whew!’ when asked, so I didn’t sound cocky. But those five hilly, snowy miles were the sweetest welcome home.
Fast forward to the next morning… I had an 11 miles ahead of me, per my marathon training schedule. I ran from my parents’ house down to the lake and around it twice, up by my old high school and around the track, up to Three Sisters, through a neighborhood and back down. In the almost 10 years since we lived in that house, I had never ran that route when I could have so many times. I mentally kicked myself (ya jerk!).
As a cross country runner in high school, I had run the same roads, trails, and tracks over and over, usually a little slower than expected by my coaches. My teammates and I had gossiping and flirting to do because we were in high school, after all.
I thought about myself at 15 and 16 and how immature I was. How I didn’t know who I was or what I was going to do about a math test I didn’t plan on studying for. How I had a crush on a guy who went to another high school and it seemed like the end of the world I didn’t see him every day. How I only did cross country because I wasn’t good at any other sports (choir geek right here, y’all). How I never would have believed it if anyone would tell me I was going to run a marathon…ever. The Taylor Eye Roll would have been all over that one.
I thought about myself now, at 23-and-a-half. I thought about how I finally know who I am and (mostly) what I want. How much I’ve changed, how much I’ve seen of the world, and how much my fingers were freezing (but I wasn’t going to admit it to Mom who told me to dress warmer).
But no matter what I thought about myself, it always came back around to running. It’s been through everything with me, even when I didn’t want it, and especially when I did. It has stuck with me longer through all my ugliness, awkwardness, and biggest life changes.
Going back to Colorado after having moved 1,158 miles away confirmed what I already knew: Running and I are in it for life, you really can go home again, and always listen to Mom when she tells it’s gonna be cold.