“Sometimes the best journeys aren’t necessarily from east to west, or ground to summit, but from head to heart. Between them we find our voice.” – Jeremy Collins
I grew up in the Kansas City, MO. where BBQ stains and sports teams were the norm. I defined myself by the sports I played. I was an athlete. That was my identity. It’s what I knew and how people knew me. Unfortunately in college, due to a severe knee injury that eventually led to my college athletic career ending, I found myself facing the hardest challenge I had ever experienced in my life. I had to rediscover who I was. Unknowing at the time, that injury would pave my trail, pioneering the demand to find purpose and redefine myself.
I believe adventure has always been in my soul; it just took enabling my ability to run and walk to find it. When you lose something you take for granted every day, you begin to understand the dynamic between living a life of excuses and living a life with purpose. I needed a new purpose. Without the ability to play the sport I loved for so long, I turned to my other passion: fishing. It began by picking up the fly rod after classes and limping down the trail to an old farm pond, and ultimately lead my feet to where I am today. Fly fishing allowed me to get out of my head and into my heart. I felt the strong desire for adventure and purpose inside me like never before.
As time went on, my life began meandering towards the purpose of living in a different rhythm. I was seeking out new experiences and living in new places, which ended up leading to a career in the outdoor industry. But as my need for adventure and fishing took over, I was still searching for something. Four years after my injury, my body and competitive urge came creeping back and began telling me it was time to fly again. I decided that I wanted to run a half marathon — the only problem was I had never in my life run more than a mile. I grew up playing basketball and was a sprinter in track. When my body was capable of running, all it knew how to do was go fast. I had to teach myself that it was ok to go slow and in return, you can go much farther. Using the meditation of fishing and the desire for adventure, I ran those 13.1 miles and found that running was able to fill that void in my heart that sports had occupied for so long.
And then I found the trail… and have never looked back.
If I’m being honest, I would not call myself a runner. I do not have a training schedule, I am not on a strict diet and you will not find me on the trail before lunch. I would consider my call to trail running and even running in general a fight against distraction and an addiction to finding out what you are made of. For me, the trail provides the courage and ingenuity to endure to the end. It inspires and challenges me, to allow myself to be in the moment, focused and connected to the trail.
I moved to Portland just over a year ago. The Northwest has certainly helped expand my perspective on life. The magnetic beauty of the Northwest and the endless trails and rivers are truly a playground you can only dream about. It’s funny how one single experience in your life, such as a knee injury, can go from being the end to igniting such a healthy perspective on life and propel you to places you never thought possible. Often times when I am out running, I will instinctively navigate through technical, rocky, mountainous terrain. It takes me back to the cracks in my parent’s driveway where I spent countless hours perfecting my jump shot or challenging my father to a one-on-one duel. When a new passion intersects with an old one, the feeling of purpose is sure to collide.
So here’s to the new life, but without forgetting the old. For the old is what brought life to the new. When you follow your feet, you find your trail.
Favorite Trail: Wildwood Direct via Forest Park, Portland, Oregon