Zen on the Trail 

It has been a long week. The candle was burning at both ends most days; I sacrificed some needed sleep to find those extra hours in the day. So when the end of the work day rolled around on Friday, it was tempting to just pour a glass of wine and tell myself  could postpone a run until the weekend.  After finding great camaraderie and motivation through the “Another Mother Runner” podcasts that often keep me company on the road, I signed up for a 5-week training program through the “Train Like a Mother Club” to jump-start the fitness machine after taking a break following the more intense training earlier this year for my June marathon.  Nothing like a  virtual community of training partners to provide some accountability… in addition to my faithful companion.

Today’s training schedule called for a “Zen Run” – leave the GPS watch behind, pull out the ear buds if you run with music, and just go while letting go … It was exactly what I needed.

Corbin was born the year I turned 40, and as I approach another decade marker, Corbin and I both are a little grayer, a little slower, and more appreciative of the little things … OK, perhaps Corbin has always been blessed with that joie de vivre ….

We set out with the intention to enjoy a leisurely 3-mile loop on the trails before the sun set.  While the days are growing shorter, tonight still had echoes of summer …. almost 70 degrees, a tad humid (by Duluth standards), and forest sounds more reminiscent of August than September.  As my trusty pal has aged, he has become more sensitive to the warmer temperatures, particularly if the humidity is up, so he did not stray far from my side as we trotted along at an easy pace.

Corbin used to pull me up the hills with my hands-free leash around my waist. This evening, I found him preferring to slow to no more than a fast walk up even the smaller inclines.

The somewhat muggy conditions on the trail made for a perfect meditative pace.  We jogged, we walked, we took note of the signs of the changing seasons.

When Corbin was younger, he would run twice as far as I would on a trail run, looping out and coming back to me, again and again.  Now, he was just as happy to stop at the river overlook and catch his breath as I caught mine, before we started off again.

I admit to feeling my eyes fill with tears at one point as we ran along, realizing that this very well could be my last fall running with my dear four-legged friend on these trails, given how much he has slowed down over the past year.  I was reminded, though, that Corbin is blessed with that gift that we all seek — enjoying and living in the moment.  As we trotted side by side, he looked up at me with a grin.  I let go of the worries of what the months ahead may hold. We just ran and I was grateful for the time we had right now.

I got my zen on and cleared my head, noticing the gifts that Mother Nature had placed for us to enjoy along the way.

We paused periodically to admire the treasures of the great outdoors.

The diversity and delicate details on the forest floor are awe-inspiring if you take a moment to truly appreciate them.

We extended our 3-mile loop, by another mile or so, continuing to intersperse walking with running.  I let Corbin set the pace – he would slow on an upward incline, and then once the trail sloped downward or flattened out, he would start trotting along again.  We embraced the silence between us, and filled it with the evening sounds of the woods.

Our relaxing evening jaunt came to a close, and the sun started to peek through the gray cloud cover.

We made a brief detour before heading home, and stopped to say good evening to Lake Superior. Peaceful and serene, the big lake embodied that zen I sought and found on the trails with my dear friend.

Ciao! ~ Kat

20 thoughts on “Zen on the Trail 

  1. Well done going out after a long week. Not many of us has the strenght. It should make your weekend more refreshing though 🎊
    It made me sad what you wrote about Corbin, hope he is well.

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  2. This is one of my favorite posts, Kat. Maybe because I love the woodlands so much and what you photographed is what I find as treasure on my hikes to a nearby river. And maybe in a large part, your thoughts about Corbin are the very things I saw in my little ranch hand, Zoe, who recently died of congestive heart failure at the age of twelve. I appreciate those memories of her at my side each day while I worked, and at the end of her time, the slow buggy rides with her in my lap just enjoying the comfort of a good friend.

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    1. Oh Zoe! I am sorry, Lori — always so, so hard to lose a good friend like that. Thank you for your kind words about the post – it was one that wrote itself. The walk breaks and slow trotting along the trail allowed us to really take in all the beautiful details that nature offers up.

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  3. Beautiful woods and so lovely to still have your companion along.
    BTW, those fall asters are in bloom here in the mountains of VA as well. Yesterday, I found them in four different colors along a roadside fence: purple, blue, pink, and lavender.

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  4. What a wonderful post, Kat. I really enjoyed the ‘zen run’. And teared up remembering my runs with little Bumble, which slowed down to very slow walks before he went to the rainbow bridge last winter. I’m so grateful Bumble ‘sent’ us another adoptee, Dylan, who now runs with me as fast as I can run. Living in the present moment – and enjoying it – is what we all need.

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  5. A zen run, what a lovely name and idea. And I love the photos. One of the things I love the most about walking with my puppy is exactly that: no watches, no phone, just the two of us appreciating nature. And when she stops to sniff, she reminds me to look around as well. How lucky we are to have these lovely companions.

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  6. Dear Kat,
    Hi! A fellow trail runner and dog lover here 🙂
    What a beautiful story with amazing photos – I love your notion of zen-running without any devices. Getting lost on a trail is one of my most favorite things to do.
    I hope you don’t mind if I tag along a bit..I could feel my blood pressure drop with each step you described. Gorgeous!
    Michelle

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  7. I love the mushrooms! I don’t know why, but I just can’t pass up a mushroom. And your woods are so pretty there! They’re very different from here in South Carolina (For a comparison I just wrote a post with lots of pictures on Sunday). Thank you for sharing.

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