Feeling off-balance is troubling. The initial instinct to stretch out your arms and find some stabilizing structure of permanence is inevitable. Oftentimes, on the trails, that which we need to keep us upright is just out of reach. We fall. We bleed. We break. We mend… hopefully.
This year I’ve been entirely off-balance. My mental stability has been in question and I’ve been in a constant search to find that object of permanence to right the ship. Most times I fell. I would slip into depression and paranoia, unable to draw the distinct line between reality and the figments of my imagination that torment what should be peaceful moments. At times, it was utterly terrifying. At times, I imagined finding peace in the permanence of non-existence.
In all this time I found little to no ability to run. The desire to apply myself towards a personal goal was unthinkable as it took all my effort to see my way through to a better path of thinking. Instead of searching for my personal goals in running, I shifted my track and focused on our runners who showed up and gave their all at our races. I poured myself into their dreams in hopes that in some small way I could help them reach a goal that I knew was unattainable for myself.
During a time of personal instability, I found a solid structure to lean on for my personal goals in running. Every one of you who used our events to strive for more gave me confidence that even if I was never able to pursue my own goals in reaching finish lines, I could still be a part of the community and help all of you have the chance. This measure of comfort gave me the time I needed to mend and right myself.
Community is stability. It’s the centering force that can bring outliers in and give them a home amongst the crowd. And no matter how far out my mind tried to push me, the gravity-bending love that this community has to offer pulled me back in and sheltered my dreams as I fought to realize them again.
I’m running again now. I’m more stable than I have been in the last two years. It’s taken a lot of work, a lot of patience, and a lot of love. My family has stood by me to give me comfort, love, and attention. You, as my trail family, have shown me that the world I fell into is still alive and well, waiting for me to return to toe the start line whenever my body is ready.
As we move out of one year and into the next, I still look forward to watching as many runners as possible cross our finish lines. I also look forward to notching a few more ultra finishes on my belt as I head back down toward Buckle Alley. My mind is ready and now my body needs to follow. I thought of the possibility of never returning to a start line to run, but I can’t find the balance in my life with that outcome. Standing upright is safe, and an improvement over my previous state. But a motionless life is an uninspired one. I need to pursue the days that follow this one. I want to chase them down and cross the finish line smiling. I’m sure I’ll stumble. I’m sure my stability will be tested. But I’m also sure that with a community so well balanced by compassion and determination, I’ll never have to reach very far to right myself and get moving again.