More Than Just a Jar Full of Nails: Trail Therapy

After my 14-miler yesterday, I posted a picture of my awesome view to Instagram (IG: emilyp775) with the caption, “trail therapy.” This morning, one of my friends asked me, “Is everything okay? You mentioned needing therapy on the trail.” LOL. Although I know she had nothing but the best intentions, my reaction was, “Really? Of course I’m okay. I’m excellent! I’m a trail runner.” By saying that the trail, or running in general is my therapy, I don’t mean that in the literal sense that I actually need therapy (…okay, some might disagree), but I meant that the trail is my safe place. The place that I go to get all the crap out that builds up in our daily lives. If you aren’t a runner/hiker/biker, you might not exactly understand what I am talking about, but I would challenge you to give it a try. Go out in the middle of nowhere, all by yourself, and let me know how you feel when you come back. Alive? I think so.

So, after that comment this morning, I decided to really think about what it meant to be out on the trails during my 4 mile run this afternoon on the Mt. Rose Flume Trail. I didn’t bring my phone with me. No watch. No music. Just me and my favorite trail that I know like the back of my hand. The thing about this trail is, no matter how many times I have been on it, I am always looking for something. My eyes are constantly scanning the ground for big, and sometimes small, rusty nails. You see, the historic Flume Trail was used for commercial logging in the 1800’s and there are still some remnants of the old “flume.” This varies from pieces of old wood, metal pipe, a bull wheel, and of course, rusty old nails.

More than just a jar of rusty nails.

More than just a jar of rusty nails.

While you might say to yourself, ‘why are you picking up rusty old nails?’ they represent so much more than that. They are a piece of history. They make me feel connected to the trail. And today, on my run, they meant more than they ever have. As I was running along and finding an inordinate amount of nails (I came home with 8 today), it dawned on me that each time I run that trail and pick one up, it represents a struggle. Running isn’t something that I jump out of bed in the morning excited to do (most days, anyways), and it takes true discipline and dedication to make it happen. The struggle is real for all of us and there is something that each one of us has to face in life. It’s when you overcome that struggle and get out on the trail or whatever else you might be facing that you can really grow. I also truly believe that it makes us happier, and not to mention a whole lot healthier, individuals.

As I picked up each nail along the trail today, I thought about how incredibly blessed I am to be able to run. I thought about how others can’t. I thought about how after an exhausting day in the office and a full night of school ahead, it is the last thing I want to do. I thought about how it just clears my head and gives me a sense that everything will be okay. Each nail that I picked up, represented a struggle and hammering that struggle out on the trail. Those nails might be rusty, but what they represent is invaluable.

What I said about the trail being my therapy holds more true than ever. The dirt, trees, flowers, fresh air, birds, squirrels, and even the nails, all bring me to a peaceful place that is my relief. I can’t wait to get back out on the trail and find some more nails to hammer out the daily struggles in our lives. What do you do for yourself to keep your sanity?

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