BY STEFANIE V.

This weekend has been a whirlwind of love and gratefulness. Every year, I am reminded at this time about how lucky I am to have such great friends, family, health, job and circumstances.

Somewhere along the way this year, I decided I wanted to become more focused on trail running. I discovered a local trailing running group called OUTRUN (Ohio Ultra Trail Runners) and began to join them for Thursday night hill workouts.  Next, I joined them on Tuesdays and then Mondays. I even volunteered for a new trail race called Conquer the Castle (100K, 50K, 25K).

“The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other… but to be with each other.”

CHRISTOPHER MCDOUGALL

Over the past few months, I’ve grown to love trail running. This just isn’t because of the people I’ve met. I remember one evening right as summer was coming to a close, I looked up and saw the tops of the trees. I began to notice every tree branch and leaf. I took a deep breath and smelled the forest. I knew this was where I wanted to spend more time.

So, this Thanksgiving, as many of my fellow friends and runners went to a turkey trot, I joined the OUTRUN group for a “Thankful and Grateful” 11- mile run at North Chagrin Reservation.

Instead of racing, we galloped along at a slow enough pace to hold conversation with one another. The temperature was in the mid 40s with a slight drizzle, much warmer than typical Cleveland weather in November. We stuck to the bridle trail. So, there was plenty of mud and puddles. We also stuck together as a group. No one was left behind, and no one was out in front.

Without explicitly asking the question, “What are you thankful for,” we talked about what made us happy, what we were looking forward to in terms of our plans for the day, our upcoming races and our personal lives. As the miles ticked by, we focused on our families, children, jobs and learning more about one another (many of us had never met).

To me, this is what made this Thanksgiving run so special. No timing mats. No crowds. No “free” t-shirts. It was the splendor of nature and God’s beauty at work, the comraderie and one common activity that brought us together: running.

“Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world, the disarray… I choose to see the beauty.”

WESTWORLD

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