A Story Worth Telling Again and Again

David Yon, October 2, 2016

I suspect other than the races I help direct, I have written more words about the Pine Run 20K than any other. Pine Run has had two lives: the first from 1977 until 2006 at International Paper’s Experimental Forest, just outside of Bainbridge, Georgia, and the second, starting in 2008 at Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservatory and continuing until today. The two venues have many things in common – great beauty, rough footing, challenging footing on trails, and tall hairy hills. And I have always had a special place in my heart for both of them. This Saturday Gary and Peg Griffin will be directing the race, thanks to Neil Fleckenstein (Land Use Planning Coordinator) and Kevin McGorty (Director of Land Conservation), at Tall Timbers once again.

As human beings we tend to make a lot of dumb decisions when it comes to the environment. These two venues have both offered chances to learn how to correct those mistakes. International Paper, with its focus on growing trees, is gone now, but Tall Timbers remains a very special place worthy of hosting the Pine Run. The organization remains dedicated to preserving and protecting the natural state of the ecosystem in the Red Hills Area. It is a great example of what cooperation and generosity can do. Originally, the hunting plantation of Henry L. Beadel, Tall Timbers Research Station came into existence when Beadel died and left his land and enough resources to create “a fire type nature preserve … to conduct research on the effects of fire on quail, turkey and other wildlife, as well as on vegetation of value as cover and food for wildlife, and experiments on burning for said objectives.” Out of that came the Tall Timbers Research Station Land Conservancy, originally known as the Red Hills Conservation Association. Tall Timbers now helps protect and manage over 114,000 acres which are subject to conservation easements.

As runners we often make bad decisions too. Just like we are convinced we cannot really harm the environment, we are convinced our bodies will always survive the workload we dump on them. So it is that after brutalizing my body up and down the Blue Ridge roads and highways for almost 40 miles and 29 hours, I am running intervals 10 days later and a 5K race 14 days after crossing the finish line. My body rebelled. There are a number of muscles that are quite effective at telling you just how stupid you are. The Achilles tendon can be used instead of a base violin string when you treat it badly. The sound it makes while still connected to the runner’s leg is not so sweet though; it resonates a clear note of distress. And then, there is the mighty trio – the hamstring, the back and the hip. They can play the sound of pure agony. They also have a special tone to warn a runner of the price to pay for stupidity.

Sunday I had the good fortune of checking out the Pine Run course for this weekend. Two friends were going to join me, but for one reason or another I found myself running alone. Now, I love running with my friends, but Tall Timbers is a great place to run alone. On an early Sunday morning, you are likely to have the place to yourself. Well, maybe not totally alone. During the first mile, I think I got a quick look at a coyote. Later, as I ran to the edge of Lake Iamonia, a giant hawk spread its wings wide before landing in the top of a tree. No, wait, maybe that was an osprey, not a hawk. (Ok, I am not good at identifying my birds.) And there were deer keeping watch until I got too close. They fled, white tails bobbing in and out of the tall grasses.

Now I would like to tell you how I went out there and glided over the rough trails and hardly noticed the many hilly climbs. I would like to write about how the beautiful blue sky and cool morning transported me to an “other body” experience, a runner’s high. I do, after all, know that feeling. Not on this day however. Those muscles and tendons mention above were blasting a warning sound. A little common sense and I would have ditched the plan. I did decide to shorten the run from the full 12.4 mile distance to 8. And while that certainly was no fun, I found myself stopping just to take in my surroundings. On the one hand, it was as if I was using the beautiful day as an excuse to stop and make the pain go away. But then, it would seem as if I was using the pain as an excuse to stop and enjoy the serenity and beauty around me – something I too often take for granted.

See you Saturday, I hope.