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February 23, 2017

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My Secret Escape

Running provides a lot of things to a lot of people: competition, challenge, a social life, friendship, pain, accomplishment, and escape, to name just a few.  Today, we want to talk more about escape. Life can be hectic, crazy, and overwhelming. But, for many, running can be a way to escape the chaos of normal life and to find some well-deserved alone time. Today, RADrabbit Denali Strabel shares her secret escape with us, in her own beautifully written words:

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The Alaskan summer offers endless adventure and work. Summer invites complete balance between the two worlds of seasonal work in a small harbor town and midnight sun peak bagging. Adventuring just long enough to make it back to work, no matter what hour you find yourself starting at. These runs have established an important part in my life. Without the task of challenging myself to find unknown places, life would be as dull as dishwater. It’s the promise I keep to myself that helps me work long hours; the promise to always find some time to escape the lunacy of Alaskan Tourism--to find an escape, even on the busiest of trails.

Every now and then, it’s hard to enjoy a popular trail. Buzzing with outside visitors, a sunny day can attract lots of traffic. At my job, I am constantly interacting with people, so my runs are the only chance I get to catch some quiet time. It’s my luck that I can be quite an early bird. When you’re used to a shift that starts at 5am, waking up early for a run is quite enjoyable. The mornings are silent. The mornings are a time where my mind can wake up slowly. The trail’s emptiness gives off an essence that can only be witnessed at the moment. It’s a time where the phone isn’t ringing. No jokes about my name really being Denali are made. No need to guide lost travelers, they have yet to start their day. The sun finds itself peeking through the trees; it has yet to dry off the morning dew. It’s a hard thing to put into words how it feels to be waking up with a trail. Knowing I’ll be fighting the crowd coming back, the morning time is my place to get away from the summer chaos.

On days where I let my adventurous soul take the wheel, the hiker’s path quickly diminishes under my feet. As I dance into the unknown wilderness, I feel a type of freedom. Of course I could stay on the designated trail, but these free hours can’t be wasted on something already seen. Getting no time to be completely alone and exposed to the Alaskan wilderness would mean no point in living here at all. I get to have such a scramble of emotions all to myself while venturing into the wild. The fear of bears is always on my mind, but it’s also exciting to move like the animals we never see watching us in the bushes. It’s exciting to sprint through shrub and creeks while exploring towards a mysterious ridge. What shall I run into? I never know and I never try to guess. I allow the wild to let me see herself how she wants it. The goal is to find a spot that no one has ever seen; seen off in the distance but unknown on a personal level. I watch the people run up and down the popular trails from a hillside far away. Like a bird, I can view into their world without making my presence known. It’s easy to get lost in such a lush paradise. The endless mountain ranges and land to be conquered makes it hard to ever stop exploring.

Hours slip by effortlessly and now it’s time to start heading home. My adventure has to take a back seat as the day starts to get active. While racing back, I find myself darting down questionable territory. Learning quickly that creeks can rapidly turn into uncrossable waterfalls, adventuring is a game of trial and error.

The trail, once awake, can hold much energy. The sun is usually out and people are up enjoying the beauty surrounding them. The trail is bright, the birds are chirping, and even the creek seems to be flowing at a rhythmic beat. Making my way through the hikers and bikers, whizzing past as quiet and gracefully as possible, I feel the liveliness of the trail. The presence revs up my engines as I race myself down to the car. They have no idea where I have been; it’s like running with a secret.

Only one time did a run take too long. The clients to check-in for a fishing trip were already waiting at the door. It was a funny exchange of conversation as they poked fun of me for ‘sleeping in too long’. As we laughed and paraded into the office, a woman reached for my hair. Pulling out a small blueberry branch, more excitement bursts out of the door.

“Where have you been girl!?”

My secret escape from this busy little town, my secret garden and nowhere you’ve ever been.

- Denali Strabel, RADrabbit


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