Pirate up, buttercup.

I’ve never gotten to be a pirate. Always wanted to be, but some desires are outdated by centuries and outweighed by the reality of responsibility that life requires. Still though, I miss the care-free times I spent charging through the makeshift forts erected by my friends and me when we were kids, pretending the sticks in our hands were cutlasses.

These epic assaults on port cities, forts, and massive galleons loaded with pieces of eight were as close as life would bring me to the sensation of being a pirate. And although the bounty we brought home after our adventures were nothing more than scrapes, bruises, and pretend money, we felt rich and mighty: gods of the sea (woods) unable to be defeated by our enemies (trees).

This feeling of elation and jubilee disappears quickly as age weakens imagination. The trees lose their curves that form the body of the ship. Fallen logs no longer resemble canons aimed and ready to fire on intruders. Friends fall away into other desires and passions revolving more around social status than irreverent fun.

Through time, the mud-soaked boots and ripped clothes of youth become replaced by a sought-after polished veneer. Reality strikes harder and faster than a buccaneer bent on revenge and rampage, and we lose touch with that fantastical whimsy that turned a grouping of trees into a destination beyond the maps edge where monsters be. I stopped wanting to be a pirate. Frankly, the more you learn about their reality versus the romantic perception, it can quickly turn you off. I still like to read about them though, but I would never want to commandeer a vessel and take aim at another in hopes of enriching myself.

That love of running carelessly through the woods with friends, however, was an attainable link to a happier time in youth I found readily available a few years back.There’s a lot that we can think of that goes into running these days if we get swept up into the industry of it – the adulthood aspect of running. But take a moment before you gear up for your next run and ask yourself, ‘What do I need?’.

Don’t worry. I’m not about to advocate for throwing away all available technological enhancements. Some of them can be very helpful in keeping us safe and healthy as we pursue our finish lines. I appreciate the minimalist style, but it’s not for me on most outings. What can get lost in these purchases and upgrades is more important to running, though.

If taken at face value, a trail race is nothing more than a group of people mindlessly following flagging on a trail at the same time on the same day in the same place. It holds little sway of appeal beyond a single personal goal. And when we let this solitude, this singular focus, become the primary mover while running we forget to have fun. As a kid, I ran through the mud with reckless abandon to conquer my enemy and attain glory to last through eternity. None of it was real, but damn was it fun.

The accomplishments we seek at the finish line of a race are real. For many of us, they are long-sought-after goals that took months of prep and steady progress. But, are you having fun? Are you smiling as you run through the mud and the creeks? Are you charging toward that finish line like it’s the fort standing in your way of the rich bounty that will bring your name glory?

If you do take a moment to ask yourself what you need on your next run, I truly hope the first thing you think of is your sense of adventure. It isn’t easy to run with the reckless abandon we had when growing up. Too much is on the line, and too much is already faulty within our bodies as they’ve begun the slow process of breaking down with time. But the heart of running doesn’t need us to physically act like a kid. It just need us to allow the mentality to sink in. We don’t run together on race day because it’s the adult thing to do. We gear up and call our buddies to make sure they’re still coming so we can hang out and have fun as we used to for a few hours when we were kids.

If you do take a moment to ask yourself what you need on your next run, I truly hope the first thing you think of is your sense of adventure. It isn’t easy to run with the reckless abandon we had when growing up. Too much is on the line, and too much is already faulty within our bodies as they’ve begun the slow process of breaking down with time. But the heart of running doesn’t need us to physically act like a kid. It just need us to allow the mentality to sink in. We don’t run together on race day because it’s the adult thing to do. We gear up and call our buddies to make sure they’re still coming so we can hang out and have fun as we used to for a few hours when we were kids.

So, let your smile shine bright as you yelp and holler your way down the hill. Cheer on those mighty buccaneers charging forward at your side. Run through the mud. Storm the fort. Let out that inner pirate and raise the black flag in the face of dispirited running. You are the arbiter of your imagination – due it the justice the kid in you deserves on your next run.

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