I don’t really know where my love of the mountains comes from. There were the countless summers spent in the Swiss Alps with my parents when I was a kid, the couple of years I was in love with a mountain guide and tagged along pretty much everywhere with him, and all the other times when I hiked for hours or days in the spectacular French Alps.
Yesterday, I ran my first 50k. It was almost in my back yard, in the mountains from the Haute Provence where my mother lives but that I arrogantly never really viewed as mountainous. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is picture perfect with the lavender fields, the olive trees, the old oaks against a backdrop of clear blue sky. But here, we call it « la montagnette », a somewhat derogatory term which implies that it is on the smallish side.
I wasn’t really prepared for the race and almost did not show up. But I am glad I did. Because it felt wonderful to be part of that endless space again. Getting to the top of a mountain does that to you, it makes you want to laugh with pure joy, bow with awe and cry with tenderness. The climb up had been long and hard, I had kept a steady rhythmical pace for that first steep 20km, listening to my breath and the sound of my poles hitting the ground.
Then I hit the downhill, my legs already tired but my body still strong and craving the embrace of space. Running downhill is really like letting yourself go into air, not fearing it, not holding back, leaning your body right into it but with complete mindfulness and discipline. Such a beautiful echo of my meditation practice and my life really. Surrendering to the groundlessness of all and still being held by the earth and welcomed by space.
I am not a good mountain runner, at 45 I am barely beginning to understand the resilience, patience and technical skills that it requires. But I love it, I love that I can be humble and just run for the sake of it, be satisfied with whatever place I make. I hadn’t felt that true contentment with my athletic endeavors in a long time, always somewhat unconsciously striving to be faster and better. Yesterday, the « montagnette » made my heart sing, my legs scream and my mind swell with pride regardless of my pace.
Link to the official Trail de Haute Provence video (beautifully made)