For nearly all avid runners, summer is the time for getting out on long runs, pushing ourselves to new places and to new levels of fitness. The long, warm, gentle days are perfect for moving fast, long, and light wherever we decide to take ourselves. This may look a bit different for each runner, but there are very few among us who don’t take advantage of the long days of summer as a time to be ambitious and adventurous with our running. For me, over the past few years, this has come to mean several sessions of my Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp and dozens of long days in the mountains here in Alaska exploring new places beyond where I have been before. For me there is nothing that quite compares to the satisfaction, excitement, and opportunity of running in these summer months.
For these reasons I have often been resistant to the transition from summer to fall, a transition that here in Alaska has definitively begun over these past couple weeks. I’ve noticed this year, though, that I have more of an appreciation for this transition. Typically in autumn things slow down, shorten, and I become much less ambitious, and much less curious. In the past I have tried to grasp at every last thread of summer for as long as possible. I’m sure I will find myself doing exactly this at various points over the next month or two, especially when the weather is good, but I am also noticing this year just how much opportunity comes with this autumn perspective.
From an obvious standpoint there is the opportunity to rest and recover from the long runs/races of the spring and summer. From a less-obvious standpoint there is the opportunity to see things right in front of us more clearly and more consistently.
In the summer I find myself always roaming far and wide, looking for that which lies just out of my reach, but that which I might be able to find if I keep moving forward. The days are long, and every now and then I get where I’m trying to go. This is deeply satisfying, but often simply leaves me thinking about where else I might be able to go next. Things in the foreground don’t really matter. Only that which lies out on the horizon, a horizon which seems to get wider and further away as the days get longer, seems to be of interest. With the coming of autumn, though, all of this seems to shift.
This past week I went for a run up Perseverance Trail. This is an eight-mile roundtrip trail that essentially starts in downtown Juneau and goes into Silverbow Basin of Gold Creek. Along the trail there are several waterfalls which cascade down from lush mountain ridges 3,000 feet above the valley floor. This has to be one of the most beautiful places you can run to in 30 minutes from downtown of any city in the world, yet it wasn’t until I ran up there last week that I really noticed this beauty for the first time in several months. In the summer months I use this trail as a way to access or return from trail and ridges far beyond. It wasn’t until this change in season brought about a change in my perspectives that I was able to view Perseverance Trail as a satisfying destination in its own right, as opposed to simply a way to get to another destination. On this particular run I stopped at the end of the trail for a few minutes more than usual, and as I looked around I felt like I was looking at those mountains for the first time in months, even though I have been there a few-dozen times in the past few months.
This past weekend I went backpacking with my family on the Juneau Ridge. This is a mountain route that again starts right from town, and more often than not, when running it in the summer time, I am using it as a means to get to other mountains and ridges beyond. Despite having run this route more than 100 times I had never spent a night up there until this past weekend. Hardly ever had I even stopped long enough along the ridgeline to truly take in everything around me. Slowing down, though, and really spending time taking in everything around me, I felt a bit like I was traveling this ridge for the first time, a feeling that I just don’t know I would ever feel while in my ‘summer mindset’ of moving fast and far.
Early autumn has moved in quickly here in Alaska. Leaves are turning colors and falling from the trees; days are getting much shorter (it actually gets dark while I am still awake now); and the air has a chill to it that I haven’t felt since spring. It’s easy to feel a loss about summer being mostly passed by for another year, but autumn this year is something that I am most certainly looking forward to. I’m looking forward to noticing all the little things which seem to mostly pass by in a blur all summer long. This process has begun, but I’m sure it will continue much more prominently in the next several weeks. I can’t wait to see what things that come alive with this perspective.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- How does your perspective on the natural world shift when the seasons do?
- Where do you find your mind and body wanting to go when the days grow shorter and cooler in the fall?