Today was my third run this spring on Squaw Peak Road. That feels like an accomplishment, even though I’ve only gone a round-trip total of five miles, because all winter I wasn’t even sure I would ever run it again. The fear of falling continues to linger on the edges of my running psyche, and it is especially relevant on SPR, even though I’ve never actually fallen there. (I need to remind myself: I’ve been running for 14 years now, with one year off for pregnancy…so I’ve logged, what, at least 1300 runs, and only two of them have resulted in falls. Somehow, the statistical probability of not falling still doesn’t help me feel less afraid of falling.)
But when it came right down to it, I couldn’t bear not running there. It’s beautiful, and peaceful, and hard, a combination I really enjoy. Plus, I don’t know where else to train for my long uphill and downhill Ragnar miles.
To combat my fear, I’ve acquired some really, really bright running clothes. I have some bright pink capris, and fluorescent yellow and pink shirts. The 80’s would be proud! But this way I have less fear of being hit by a car at least.
The bright clothes don’t help on the blind curves…but they do on the straighter parts of the road. Plus, there’s something surprisingly cheerful in running in such attire.
When I ran it the first time this year, my choice was confirmed in my heart.
Yes, it’s hard. And it is a dangerous road, narrow and with no shoulder to speak of in most places, and those blind corners!
But it is just so beautiful. The older I get, the more I want to be outside, in the natural world. It fulfills me in ways I can’t exactly describe; the word “healing” seems a little too new-agey but it comes the closest. All the little wounds that life inflicts seem to lose their significance in the face of a steep uphill climb, surrounded by just-barely-greening trees, the sparkling light, the freshness of the air. (I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.)
On my first run, I saw a little flock of wild turkeys.
On the second, I watched three deer carefully pick their way around the trees and out onto the road. They stopped and looked at me as I came closer, and then disappeared into the bushes on the other side.
Today I had to talk myself into going. It was rainy and grey, chilly and windy. But I checked a few weather sites, and I decided that I had a little window between 8:45 and 10:00 when it was far less likely to be raining. And I had to encourage myself a little bit to get out of the car.
But I’m so glad I went. In fact, I said that out loud when I had just a little less than a mile left to run. “I’m so glad I’m here, right now.” You can talk outloud to yourself in the mountains. Who’s going to hear?
I didn’t see any wildlife today. But when I got to the ridge that is just above the gun club turn off, I pulled my headphone out because I didn’t want anything to distract me. It seemed like every little dip and curve of the road brought a new scent to me, sometimes floral, sometimes wet dirt, sometimes that green smell of growing things. It was just barely raining—I think 15 drops landed on me—and the air was slightly misty, and Timp in front of me was shrouded in clouds, just barely streaked with snow underneath. And the birds were singing their guts out.
At the very top of that switchback, there is a great view. The mountain beneath the road is covered in yellow wildflowers right now, and you can see the mouth of Provo Canyon with those dramatic cliffs, and then all of the houses, and then the lake. I almost stopped, just to admire the view, but stopping on an uphill is not advisable, as you have to start again and you’ve lost your momentum.
I turned around a little bit past the 2.5 mile marker (which isn’t marked; this is just the photo I took a few years ago when I wanted a visual to help me remember where to turn around; today the peak was covered by clouds, and there isn’t as much green up there yet).
Just as I turned around, a few wide expanses opened up in the clouds, so as I ran back down, it was through grey light and then sunlight. Part of me kept thinking I wish I had my camera, but mostly I was glad I couldn’t stop to take any pictures. Lighting like that—the ridge I just ran off of in that watery, twinkly sunlight that happens after rain, but the mountain peaks behind it still gloomy with clouds—is difficult anyway, but mostly I didn’t want anything to get in the way of experiencing it. It was magical.
When I came around the switchback to the ridge above the shooting range—the one I almost stopped at going up—the clouds shifted again. Going down, the view is completely different: still the yellow hillside, but now you look into the north part of Provo Canyon. The road is a thick curving ribbon at the bottom, and the light fell so that only the bottom of the canyon was illuminated. It was breathtaking. There were no cars, no bikers, no other runners, just me, the wildflowers, the view. My beating heart.
I finished my run today smiling. Not just smiling, and not just joyous, but refilled, and that feeling is one that I don’t get from any other place I’ve run before. And it’s why, despite being afraid of falling or being hit by a car, I’ll still run it.