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Aspen Loop Trail summer

Monsoon clouds make their way over Humphreys Peak as seen from a section of the Aspen Loop Trail. 

Humphreys Peak stands watch over Flagstaff. Her slopes rise with the patient ascent of true grandeur. She’s not surprised to bear white in the summer. Humphreys is patient. She knows about seasons. She knows September will bring blazing sunflowers, and before that will come summer’s sobbing monsoons. She knows morning light like no one else besides runners, and she knows a thing or two about running.

I’ve heard it said that mountains stir memories and rivers heal them. There aren’t many rivers near Flagstaff, so perhaps running heals ours. Surely Humphreys understands this ritual. She herself cycles through damage, repair and flourishing. What does she remember? Healing can be slow. The running process, at least, must make sense to her.

Perhaps she is glad we run at her feet. No matter the pace, each step is one of honest endeavor. Perhaps our efforts reflect hope when other acts she witnesses appear far from it. After all, running can be a place where life responds to effort, and where goodness given results in goodness returned. If there is one promise I wish to believe about the world it is that goodness given results in goodness returned. My courage is fueled every time I see someone’s efforts rewarded — goodness for goodness — the promise answered. Perhaps our efforts do the same for the mountain.

However, the mountain knows that goodness for goodness is fulfilled in a variety of ways. I’ve struggled to accept that the goodness received is often given in forms outside of greater fitness or speed. The mountain is wise to the wealth available, the answers to the promise of venturing out.

I look up. The peaks place a hand on my heart. It’s June, and snow too heavy for the strength of her branches still clings. Despite trees pressed low by the weight of winter, peace and patience are what she speaks. The mountain trusts that this burden is the cost of summer; one day, the snow will become water that nourishes her deepest roots. Melt will descend softly, at last soothing every deep, frozen fissure of exhausted, forgotten bark. We understand one another.

In the meantime, the mountain greets the morning. Great diversity of life darts in her midst. She is privy to every pink sunset, and she watches them all. Promise answered? That’s up to you.

Trust and stillness flank the mountain. The silence is all there is. Humphreys accepts the lingering of winter, a struggle held … until it isn’t. We’re with her all the while, grateful to be running at her feet.

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Shannon Thompson is a mental performance consultant and a team member at HYPO2 Sport. She works with student athletes at NAU and other athletes across the United Stated and Canada. A runner herself, she is grateful to call Flagstaff home.

Julie Hammonds is the coordinating editor of High Country Running. She invites columns on any aspect of the local running scene. Send tips and ideas to runner@juliehammonds.com or via Twitter @highcountry_run.

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