Slowing Down the World


By Gordon Cherr


A View from the Top

I have been taking many long runs alone in the far mountains lately. Ostensibly training for the Shut In Trail Run, one of the toughest mountain races in the continental United States. Shut In is on November 3 and it promises, as always, to be a doozy. You can be in a room crowded with experienced trail runners here in Asheville, and when the discussion turns to Shut In, all conversation simply stops and the room falls silent. Shut In and what it portends has that kind of power over those who have tread the trail.

But it is not my intention to write about Shut In, and I believe that these long, lonely runs have lately served another purpose entirely. I have needed to slow down the world lately and re-anchor myself to something solid. I have needed to be with friends and family, and to feel the peace and solitude that comes best with running in the mountains on the crisp autumn days which have suddenly appeared here. How do you respond to the catastrophic events that transpired on September 11, with the news media hurling horrific images at you in brilliant color and excruciating detail, with the losses of friends and families in numbers that stagger our ability to comprehend them? How do you balance the flood of emotions you feel, many contradictory, some rational, some senseless, overwhelming your soul?

While not an isolated event, September 11 advanced absolutely no one’s agenda, but served only to regress evolution and “civilized” society on this planet several giant steps backwards. It went just that far over the line, the indiscriminate murder of innocent people in a manner cutting across all national, racial, ethnic, religious, age and political boundaries. If someone feels the need to die to make a point, then self-immolation for all the public to witness would be more productive, towards whatever end. It would be a braver act for certain. Not the act of a hidden coward.

A recent issue of Runners Journal included an article by a woman who wrote that she ran to “heal her dark heart.” I understand her now; apparently there are many dark heart issues which require our attention. Spaceship Earth is the only place where we know that life actually exists in the entire universe, and we still treat each other in such incomprehensible ways. The weight of these thoughts crushes me.

On September 11, running suddenly became a meaningless activity for me and perhaps for you. I have been reminded that I need to be a better person and we need to be a better society. But we also need to move on ahead with our lives while learning these lessons. We need to keep moving. Ahead. Somehow. Hug your children. Hunt up your old running buddies. Tie on those running shoes, get out the door and get going. My dear friend David Yon would say that he hopes that your trails will lead you to your own answers. He is correct and they will. And I know that running those trails, wherever they maybe may lead you, will somehow lighten the heavy load you are carrying around at this moment.

Right now I’m heading out to run the big mountain again. I’ll see you there.