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Embracing the occasional fall

Last week, I spent a lot of time running in the mountains of North Carolina. First, it was a way to smash some fears, which I wrote about in my column that runs both here and in the Inquirer. Second, it was a way to sightsee while driving the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I wrote that column on Wednesday night. On Thursday, the last day of my drive through the mountains, I ran down to Craggy Gardens at 5,500 feet of elevation, and then ran down to see Crabtree Falls, a 480-foot descent to a 70-foot tall waterfall. The hike is labeled strenuous, and is at times, a slow walk of picking your across rocks and down steep rock-made stairs. But I still wanted to try to do it by running on the hard packed trails, walking the rest, and then I'd have the waterfall to myself since I made the descent very early in the morning.

And then: my foot caught on a tree root, and I went flying forward. In the split second before I landed, my brain screamed "DON'T BREAK!" not only because that would suck, but also because the visitor center wasn't open yet, and my car was the only car in the lot. My only hope at rescue was that my screams would wake up a camper in the nearby campground.

And wouldn't that be funny, after writing a column about conquering fears by climbing mountains, that I break myself running down one?

I'm lucky. It was cold enough that morning that I was wearing gloves, calf-length pants, and socks over my ankles. The fall scraped off a lot less skin than if it had happened in the summer. I'm still scraped up and bruised on my right side, and my wrist and ankle are tender, but nothing's broken or strained.

I could have quit, and almost did. I had a lot of driving to do that day. But after I got up and confirmed nothing was broken or sprained, I took a deep breath, a few steps down the trail while telling myself it was okay (because otherwise my brain would have spiraled into what could have happened) and finished the rest of the descent to see the falls, the most stunning sight I saw on my trip.

By the time I got home, my body creaked. My ankle carried a light green tinge, and my neck and shoulders and back and wrist ached. I'd planned to run the Wild Half Marathon on Sunday, despite being untrained, because I thought it'd be fun to fly at sea level after running at altitude. But even I know my limits.

Every few months, some publication runs a story screaming that runners are all going to die. Sure, there's risk that comes with running - especially trail running - but if I follow that logic, I wouldn't have driven the Blue Ridge Parkway because of the risks, or to vacation because of the risks, or anywhere because of the risk of life. So aside from some bumps and bruises, I'm okay with the fall. It reminds me that stuff happens when you're adventuring, but the alternative is a lot more boring.

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