There are many activities I enjoy; I had trouble choosing one. I could write about playing the violin, which I do but not often or well. I could write about writing, but that’s too predictable. I could write about kayaking, my newest adventure, but it still feels a little too new to me; I don’t think I could write well about it with any authority. One thing I do know a lot about is jogging. My “New Fall Resolution” was to workout five days a week, running two miles on the treadmill before work every day. I’ve been remarkably disciplined about it, and Monday through Friday I rise at 6 a.m., get dressed in my workout clothes, and get on the treadmill. That practice has led me to be able to run two miles in under 20 minutes, a respectable time for me.
Treadmill running, however, is not glamorous or even interesting. I like it because I can control the temperature and there’s no wind in my face. Additionally, I needn’t worry about creatures of any breed surprising me in the dark. The treadmill provides a safe running environment and an opportunity to work out some stress and anxieties while improving my overall physical fitness. Maybe I’ll even lower my creeping-ever-higher blood pressure.
I’ve been a fitness runner for the past 15 years; not a runner as a child, I never imagined I would ever, under any circumstances, learn to enjoy exercise, but I have, and I do, and some of that can be attributed to my running experiences in the beautiful Shields Valley. Helena is a beautiful place to live and run, but the Shields Valley holds a special place in my runner’s beating heart. For that reason, I’ve decided to share a piece I wrote two years ago about running in the valley. I like it and think it captures the sense of serenity I experienced, running in the Shields River Valley.
The River Bridge Respite
“I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, breathe in.” I repeated this mantra as I jogged north on Highway 89N, just a mile north of Clyde Park, population 300. The Shields River runs relatively parallel to the highway but intersects and flows under a bridge, my respite spot while jogging. Whether I ran on up the road or turned around at the bridge, I always paused there to catch my breath and enjoy the tranquility of the water. A day never passed that I missed the opportunity to appreciate my good fortune to live in such abundance of natural beauty. The bridge became a beacon, calling to me to hurry my run so I could enjoy a lovely rest, scanning the water for unusual debris and staying momentarily still without guilt. I wonder how many times I crossed it. Running on average, conceivably, 140 days a year, for 18 years, could it have been 2500 moments of respite on the Shields River bridge? It could be, but each experience was singular, as if the first and only and most important moment, staring into the Shields River.