Teresa Hinds Feet on High Places
Grayson Highland Half Marathon
Nothing excites me more than a physically challenging endeavor. I fully believe I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and marvelous are the works of God. (Psalm 139:14.) Nothing gives me a greater high than stepping out in faith when I know I am living on the edge. Today I will have to say I experienced the ultimate trail run of my previous running years which has consisted of the last thirty-seven years of my life.
It began rising at 5:30 am and leaving for Grayson Highlands in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. I was chauffeured by a dear friend who seems to think their mission in life is to be a blessing to me evidently, and what a blessing they are! As we drove up to the visitor’s parking lot I was elated by the beauty. It is one thing to view those gorgeous, majestic mountains, but it is another thing to know I was heading in to run them! I wanted to “feel” them, and become a part of them which I knew running them would allow me to do.
I was not disappointed! The first mile I actually struggled a little more with breathing either due to the altitude, or because much of it was up hill and rugged. However once I got warmed up I fell into one of the greatest runs of my life! Much of it had to do simply with the fact I was truly in my “natural habitat.” God created me to be a highlander. I feel so at home deep in the woods of rugged mountains. I love the smell and the rocks, large and small, covered in the lush green moss. Springtime is especially wonderful due to wildflowers densely covering parts of the woods like snowflakes. The sound of the robust mountain streams from an abundance of spring showers create a music all of its own including a crescendo as I approached the waterfalls on Cabin Creek Trail. This was a particularly favorite section as I rose to the challenge of hop scotching roots, rocks, and smaller streams running across my path. I scaled up and down feeling as though I was a deer performing one more beautiful ballet. I lifted my hands gracefully above my head in sheer delight as I leaped from rock to rock. I had the gracious smile from ear to ear you so often see on a ballerina’s face as she performs. For the first time ever I felt I was running as I have so often prayed, “He makes me as sure footed as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.” (Psalm 18:33, NLT)
This race afforded such variation with terrain and surroundings. Not for one moment were you allowed boredom. I went from there to open spaces as we ran Massie Gap and enjoyed fellowshipping with the wild ponies. The wild ponies aren’t very wild. They totally ignored the strand of runners invading their turf and continued grazing as many of us stopped long enough to snap uninvited photos of them.
Even though I was racing, I wasn’t about to rush by many of the spectacular sites without taking pictures to share with others. My first thoughts always go to my children. Then my mind fills with folks who will never get to run or hike the Grayson Highlands. I remember my own long days of being bedfast in traction due to a horse accident. Then, going home in a wheelchair not knowing what the future held for me. I write in order to share my experience with those less fortunate than myself for whatever reasons.
Another great benefit of trail running is meeting some of the nicest folks from all walks of life, and all ages. I seem to draw the younger adults my children’s ages. I had the privilege of meeting two young men today, one a seventeen year old doing his first race ever. I was impressed. I said, “Honey, after you conquer this run, I can assure you will find most others easy!” I commended him for how he was spending his Saturday morning doing the “finer things of life…outdoors.” The other young man was in his early twenties, an engineer from Texas who has fallen in love with our mountains. He will live here for six months and then move on. He had been homeschooled as my children, so we had a lot to share. As we approached the Country Store I wished him well as this was the separation point for the half and full marathoners, him doing the full as I joined the halves.
Then somewhere between eight or nine miles we began the climb! It was through beautiful woods, but honestly none of us thought this incline was ever going to end. I ended up passing three fellows much younger than myself which gave me a little extra boost. Only someone over fifty will fully understand why it starts to matter. I finally came out of that at the visitor’s center which is where the finish was to be. I was a little confused, because I knew it happened too soon, only to find we had another loop to do to circle back around to the finish. I was struggling at this point, wondering how much farther. This was a rather technical stretch, and then I came to the overlook of the Big Pinnacle! Even though I was fairly focused on the finish at this point, it took my breath away! Here, I ran into Run Bum, a super nice guy who made this run possible, and he pointed me to the best spot to view and take photos. After this elation, I was charged once again for a strong finish which to my delight was less than a half mile. I came charging through to the sound of cheering and congrats on my finish.
My finishing time was 2:29. I was quite happy with this considering all the photo opts and times of simply stopping to drink it all in. I was told I finished in the front percentage of women and in front of a lot of men. At this point the results haven’t been posted, but can be looked up eventually. It was quite an encouragement knowing I was considerably older than most. However, when I am trail running I become the little girl who grew up running the pastures and woods on foot or racing bare back on my horse with the wind in my face.
I train hard, but I know every step I take is nothing but the grace of God. I left the park today with a heart full of gratitude to the God who enables me to do what I do. By sharing today’s run I pray it might be an encouragement to you to allow God to show Himself strong in your life as well. I would also like to believe it will cause you to enjoy all the gifts He has surrounded us with, especially in these Blue Ridge Mountains. I find the best gifts are free. Try sharing some of them with those you love. They are priceless gifts we cannot put a price on. I define it as “real living.”
Photos of scenes mentioned in the article: