To me, running and Colorado are essentially the same thing. They always attract the best people. They can be unpleasant and grueling, but they just make me tougher in the end. They both involve a lot of beer. I feel infinitely happier with them in my life. They will always take me back, even if I attempt a foray into cycling or living in Rhode Island. They are both my home.
I grew up in Silicon Valley, but I always had the intense feeling that Colorado was “real home.” Like the kind of home where your heart hurts a little bit when you think about it, even when you are there. Like when you look at an amazingly delicious ice cream cone and feel sad because you know you are going to eat it and then it will be gone.
My family has a small hay ranch just north of Silverthorne, CO, nestled beneath the peaks of the Gore Range. We came to the ranch every summer to play outside, ride horses, help cut the hay, jump in the river, and spend time together. Around the time I was 13, I realized that I could actually run the trails faster than the horses could walk them. I had started running roads in California when I wasn’t playing volleyball, basketball, or swimming for school, but in the mountains behind the ranch, I started to discover how much I loved to be out on the trails, alone, ahead of the horses, ahead of my family, but still connected to the mountains and the trails and the trees we were all surrounded by.
Seeing how much I loved to run, my mom, when we were back in California, shared a piece of her life with me - the piece of her life that was her sanctity, peace, solitude, comfort, source of strength, her home: the trails she ran every day. I discovered the immensity of open space, trails, and exploration near my own home. After the madness of school sports seasons ended, I would retreat to the trails, running longer and longer every day. Running became my other “real home.”
Despite my love for trail running and the outdoors, I chose to attend college in essentially the antithesis of such a location: Providence, Rhode Island. I loved Brown and tried to squeeze every ounce of outdoor adventure out of the East Coast. I spent several years leading backpacking trips through Brown's outdoor leadership program and spent summers leading cycling tours and trail crews for kids. However, no amount of East Coast mountains (hills?) could replace Colorado for me. I remember being in my immunology class during senior year of college, when I was still somewhat wavering on where to move next, and seeing – I don’t know why it was there – a picture of some really big mountain on the screen. My stomach seized with anticipation and excitement, and I realized in that moment that I had to move back to Colorado.
So I did. I moved to Carbondale and spent the next three years teaching environmental education and running outdoor, service-learning programs for several nonprofits. I also started running ultra-marathon trail races – first one…then another…then another and another and another. The challenge, the sense of accomplishment, the same twist of anticipation and excitement in my stomach when I decided to sign up for the Leadville 50 mile trail race – it was all addictive and satisfying.
I started building a strong community in Colorado, from other young, slightly unhinged people like myself. Some of us were just trying to find our way in the world, while others were established individuals who provided guidance and mentorship. I rooted myself more deeply in this place, becoming slightly addicted to understanding the politics, the community leaders, and the critical education, environmental, health, energy, and agricultural issues facing our state.
I hopped back over to California and attended graduate school at Stanford, getting my master’s in education policy. I continued to run trails, which maintained my sense of home even though I wasn’t in Colorado and served as a constant reminder that a) even though I really hated reading scholarly articles and writing papers, I still had things in my life I enjoyed, and b) I was spending dollars to get a degree that would provide me more tools with which to author change back at home.
Back now in Colorado, I work on education and environmental policy issues with a firm in Denver. My work is meaningful, but more importantly, I am home. I am running. I am in Colorado. Being grounded in those things, I know I have the strength, space, stability, and confidence to figure out my role in this world. And I hope it can involve helping more women connect to their “homes” through adventure, storytelling, hugs, tears, and awesome films.