“Where do people run up here?” With temperatures hovering below freezing, I’m surprised that I got an answer at all. I am in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. Like my trip to Harrisburg (The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway), I am finishing work and ready to run. But where?
I am instructed to head south along the Yukon river, cut through a forest to a footbridge, head north along the Yukon river, and cross another bridge back to town. “It’s an easy 5K path. You can’t miss it.”
In the land of parkas and fur lined hoods, I take to the streets of Whitehorse in my running tights and technical fabrics. Downtown is only a few blocks long and before I know it, I’m at the Yukon river. Turning south, I find the freshly plowed running path. Actually, it’s a bike path which is used by winter cyclists sporting giant knobby tires.
Heading south, I feel good and warm. But, a tinge of fear creeps into my head with the setting sun. With a half hour before sunset, I know my 5K pace will get me back before dark, but still … it’s cold and snowy.
As I follow the river south, I slowly accelerate hoping to increase my margin of error. But before I reach the forest, I am gripped by fear. Fear of getting lost in a forest. Fear of freezing. Fear of being the frozen body found in the forest without a heavy coat (that would be embarrassing). So, I turn around and head back to the warmth and safety of my hotel room. At least I tried.
On day two (the next day), I finish work early and commit to the full 5K. With plenty of time, I retrace my steps from the prior day and find the forest.
Cutting through the tall pines, I am torn between looking up at the view (amazing) and down at my feet to avoid large puddles (don’t want wet feet in the snow) and ice patches (don’t want to slip and injure myself). Looking up wins and I find that I am not really running. I am taking a picture, then running 100 yards saying “OMG, OMG, OMG” (in my head so others don’t think I’m crazy) until I am compelled stop and take another picture.
The pace is so easy and the views are so spectacular that I continue to photo-run along the river after crossing the bridge back to town. In all, I cover 10K before returning to the hotel. I count this as a victory even though it was more like a fast walk instead of a run.
On day three, I learn the trail’s name is the Millennium Trail. This time, I run (I don’t stop for pictures since I have a bunch from yesterday). Breathing deeply, I embrace the cold, the white, the snow, and the beauty. I now run freely with pure joy.
It took me three tries to find the joy of running the Millennium Trail. The journey included a healthy dose of reality (fear of death), just plain awe (or OMG), and finally the joy that comes with familiarity. In three days, I’ve experienced the microcosm of my spiritual life. And, it began with fear.
“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs 9:10