Sometimes I want to deny the fact that running is a means to an end. I like to think that I would go on running forever and never need a destination. The truth is, a lot of the time, especially when it involves any type of altitude, I cannot wait for the destination. Pushing the body in these moments is extreme emotional Prozac. The burn in your lungs and searing pain creeping up your Achilles into the backs of your calves needs some end to look forward too. You need a reason to convince yourself to go on. Our minds need to know there is a solution in order to convince them to keep trying to work out a problem. Humans need purpose. And so often it seems, a destination.
I’m at the base of the park. I can’t see anything other than trees and rock. I know that at the top there is a castle. Knowing this gives me the motivation I need to start my ascent. I start off trying to pace myself, paying close attention to the many obstacles of root and rock before me. One wrong step could lead to an ankle roll or a face plant. I immediately regret the previous night. Not twelve hours before I see a flash of myself laughing obnoxiously, glass of wine in one hand, cigarette in the other. Why will I never learn? I just can’t seem to completely kick this damn smoking habit. It’s not a regular thing anymore but it’s enough that running on this incline feels similar to fighting to get out from underneath an elephant.
I come to a fork in the trail. In this instance I always try and let my feet make the decision. I veer left. Despite my struggle do breathe and the slight taste of blood in my throat, I become even more motivated to push. I won’t deny, part of this motivation comes from a need for self-punishment.
The trail is a simple dirt path lined with pine trees. I can’t help but let my mind wander back in time 200 years. These foot paths have probably been used for centuries; I could be walking on the same path the King of Majorca used or perhaps the path the enemy used when attempting to take the castle under siege. The idea motivates me further. As a rule, I never stop to see the view behind me until I am the very top. I can see I’m near. The top of the castle is just visible about the pine trees. I push harder than before. Now I can really taste the blood. I push even harder. I know that whatever pain I’m in will subside just as quick as it came. I round the final corner and leap up a set of 10 stairs. I am there. I have reached the summit. I finally allow myself to turn around. The view is unreal. Am I imagining this, or can I actually see the curvature of the earth? The aching in my quads seems insignificant in comparison to the view. The whole city is spread out before me, vulnerable and complete. Behind me there is the Spanish countryside of rolling hills, small farms and plots of land. The castle towers over me and invites me in. I feel I belong in this moment. I am home.