An image of a trail with high grasses on each side and it leads into a forestI am an avid trail runner. One of my favorite trails is in Napa at the Skyline Wilderness Park.  I savor this run as it challenges me while it surrounds me in pristine nature. As I run, I get the opportunity to share the trails with a diverse variety of animals: deer, wild turkeys, coyotes and wild pigs, to name a few.  On this occasion, as I took to the trails, I noticed a significant number of horses and riders gathered on the grounds leading to the trails. I soon discovered that there was a trail competition and that many teams of horses and riders would be sharing the trail with me. 

When I run, I like to run alone; I don’t like to be interrupted; and I don’t like to stop on the trails until I’m done.  While I was especially looking forward to this run since I had not been on the trails for too long for my liking, I soon realized I needed to adjust my expectations.  Now, I could have been annoyed and disappointed as I focused on the unexpected change that would disrupt  my trail running routine, or I could choose to savor a day on my mountain, enjoy my surroundings and change up my routine to embrace the interruptions. I chose the latter. 

Horses can be skittish if surprised on a trail, so I made sure I announced myself, moved off the trail and spoke gently to the horses as they passed and wished the riders well in the competition.  I then sprinted between horse teams so I still got a great work out.  I thoroughly enjoyed the beauty and magnificence of the horses – they are such regal animals with a commanding presence.  Horses happen to be one of my favorite loves, right up there with running trails. 

an image of pink wild flowersThis change in pace also gave me the chance to enjoy nature so much more than usual.  Since I run technical trails, I generally have to focus on the few feet in front of me for the best foot placement.  I occasionally look ahead and look around me, but my true focus is on the trail and where my foot will land.  Since I had to stop so often to accommodate the horses and riders, I enjoyed the flower-covered hills and breathtaking views of the valley. 

I received two lessons from this experience.  First, embrace the unexpected.  How often do you get upset if your routine gets interrupted? Or you expect one thing and another shows up? Change is consistent and you can choose to be annoyed by the disruption, or determine how you can make the most of every situation and enjoy your life during the expected and unexpected moments. Life is a lot more enjoyable when you learn to go with the flow instead of struggling upstream.

Second, it was a great reminder that while it’s important to look at what is immediately in front of you in life, it’s also important to make sure you look ahead and don’t forget the big picture – make course corrections, stay on course, change courses altogether, or simply stop, enjoy the view and the amazing life you created. 

Carpe Diem!

Joan Jakel

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