Love where you run

Imagine running at a place that is so peaceful and beautiful that you don’t want to leave it and just keep running? Imagine for a moment, running at a place where the mountains seem to touch the lake, the air is pure, swans congregate and rose bushes are full of blooms of all colors. I have found a place like that and it feels like my own sanctuary, a refuge, when I want to go for a run.

I’m talking about Lake Junaluska, my training grounds.

Last fall, I wrote the following poem after a long run at the lake as I started walking to cool down. I was walking along a section of the path called The Rose Walk.

Cool Down at the Lake

Sweating, breathing hard
Heart pounding, slower and slower
The sun setting in the west
Mountains standing tall, all around
Breezes blow
Ripples float on the water
Geese fly by loudly
Roses still standing tall
A couple passes by, smiling
Swans gliding effortlessly
Autumn air is here
Leaves turning, gently falling
The moon rises in the east
The lake so serene
Cooling down after a long run

Lake Junaluska is a special place to me. When I am out for a run, it is highly likely that you’ll find me there. It is my favorite place to train.

What is it that I like about “the lake”? Well, everything.

The lake offers scenery that changes with every stride. Mountains seem to rise out of the 200-acre lake, rose bushes bloom all summer and into the fall, hawks and eagles soar above and the ducks, swans and geese frolic around the shoreline. During the winter months, ice covers parts of the lake and snow still lays in the shaded spots. The walking path and roads offer many routes for runners and walkers at all levels, those looking for a flat course or a hilly course. Meditation gardens, benches, a labyrinth and gazebos offer calm and relaxing places just to sit and relax after a good run.

I have never been a distance runner, until this past year. While I had finished a half marathon in 2010 and again in 2015, I’ll be honest, I walked A LOT! Last spring, I started running at the lake, and the scenery, the fresh air, the smiling faces just kept me going. At first, I would run a mile or two and then walk a mile or two. I didn’t want to burn out by trying to do too much too soon, but I wanted to keep going because I loved just being at the lake.

It was and is normal for me to go for a morning run, finishing in time to catch amazing sunrises from the many vantage points found at the lake. My favorite is Inspiration Point! It’s not uncommon for me to make my way back to the lake in the evenings for a light jog or a walk, capturing the beautiful sunsets over the high mountains to the west. I don’t do that as much right now as I must mix up my training with biking and swimming, but when I’m just running, the lake is my place.

Over the last six months, I have logged over 200 miles running at the lake. I have run there in the snow, summer heat, rain and fog. Regardless of the conditions, the lake, and its beauty, seems to help make each run easier than the last.

I have come a long way since last July with my speed and endurance and I believe running at the lake has had a lot to do with it. I’m not saying that without the lake I would be less motivated to train and prepare for the half Ironman, but I’m sure it would not be as enjoyable as it is having such a special place to train.

Training for a half ironman is tough. It takes many hours of swimming, biking and running. I am blessed to have the lake as my place to run. The miles just pass me by as I absorb all the beauty that Lake Junaluska has to offer.

John Muir said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” The mountains are definitely calling me but so is the lake and I must go run.