|(Ego Boost Loop)|
Want your running ego to go through the roof? ...well, I've got the run for you! The S. Kaibab/Bright Angel Loop in the Grand Canyon. You will feel like you are one of the best runners in the world, guaranteed!
Yesterday, while running this loop, my running ego was inflated to heights way, way, way beyond my or any one's ego should ever be allowed to soar. It's not because I deserved it, that's obvious. It was because I was a very average runner who happened to be running on one of the most famous trail loops in the world, thus, surrounded by hordes of all sorts of levels of hikers, with most of them having little to no trail experience and being way deeper in the canyon then they are prepared to deal with. Thus, to them, anyone running in the canyon (no matter how painfully slow...) is an Olympic athlete. It just blows their minds. So, imagine running past hundreds of hikers that fit the above description and receiving their slack jaw, bug eyed looks and comments ... you are set up for a major ego boost.
As I have, more recently, been running off the beaten path trails in the canyon, my only company has been the odd hiker who also is adept at back country travel, the birds animals, dirt, trees, plants, rocks, river and sky. It is often a solitary human experience. There is no one to stroke your ego. No fan fair at the rim when you finish. You have to run because you truly want to explore this fantastic place and that is all. Sure, I may tell the odd person at work or hanging out about my runs or blog about it here but most the people that I talk to or read my blog are outdoor folk with similar or better abilities than I and they don't bat an eye at what I've done. They usually respond by asking questions or sharing their experience about that particular trail as they have either been on it or will soon and probably will do it faster or in better style than I.
So, back to my run yesterday... I did feel really good and was running well. I even felt particularly strong climbing up the final steep sections of the Bright Angel Trail on the way back up to the rim but, again, I am a very average runner and my effort didn't warrant the looks and ego stroking remarks that were continually thrown at me.
The run down the S. Kaibab was marked by passing only two people near the beginning of the trail and scaring them as I went by. This is not because I sneak up on them maliciously and try to scare the crap out of them for fun. I generally say hello or excuse me well before reaching someone so that I won't scare them. But, for some reason, probably the majesty of the canyon and the amazing silence of the canyon, people get mesmerized, almost as if in a trance by the canyon and the effort of hiking, people don't ever hear me coming up from behind. Also, I think people just don't expect to have someone run past them in a place like this. So, at least half of the time I pass people they jump at least a few inches off the ground in fright. I have to admit that I do enjoy it even though I try to avoid it.
Back on track... after passing the couple hikers, I had complete silence in the canyon and extremely enjoyable running, just floating along, all the way to the river. It was pretty much perfect bliss.
Then, after getting water, I headed up the Bright Angel trail and it all began. The trail went from quiet, peaceful running to weaving around hordes of people and receiving their looks of shock and ego stroking comments. The run had transitioned to full on ego boost mode.
What exactly feeds the ego on this loop? Well, these are the things I heard and facial expressions I witnessed on the run to give you some idea. The first person I ran past was a backpacker who said "your one of those amazing runners I read about!" while his friend stood silently in shock with wide eyes and jaw dropped. The next many groups I went by were backpackers too and every one of them said "Will you carry my pack? Seems like you need more weight." Amazing that they would all say the exact same thing to me but they did. It is a very common comment to runners in the canyon... Higher up on the trail (around Indian Garden) the hikers transitioned from backpackers to day hikers. The responses I got from people also transitioned to a huge spike in general open mouths, bugged out eyes, heads shaking back and forth in disbelief, questions about if I went to the river and people talking behind my back after I went by them. The crowning moment was when I went past a group of a dozen Quakers in full dress that performed every ego boosting action listed above. I was literally floating along on my ego at that point!
All of this can be a bit crazy and irritating after the 100th person does it, especially after running in solitude so much in the canyon, but I also enjoy, every once in a while, soaking it all in and answering all their questions politely and getting that big ego boost. I mean, come on, running can be such a solitary sport (no body really knows what the hell we are doing most of the time nor do they care, we just run cuz we love too)...what's the harm in having some hikers make you feel good about yourself, like your something special every once in a while (even if your an average runner like me...).
I'd say there is nothing wrong about it...just soak it all in and then keep it all in perspective. I'm sure reality will settle right back in on your (and my) next run when someone of average running ability blazes past you on the trail as if you weren't moving. ...then it's back to reality. But remember...the S. Kaibab/Bright Angel Loop will always be there to feed the ego. Just go back and run it again to get your running ego fix! ...this trail should probably be prescribed by a doctor to every runner in the country to be done at least once a year!