Church: (noun)- A building used for public worship.
A simple Google search will give you this broad and fragile answer. But why should we limit church to a physical establishment? I feel a lot of readers may think, “Grab the earplugs, here comes the religion lecture”. Seems like everyone has one locked and loaded nowadays huh? My opinion on religion means absolutely nothing so I’ll spare you the details.
For a moment, think about why people go to church. For comfort? As a safe zone? Maybe even to briefly escape. Whatever the reason may be we can all agree that those who go, do it because it makes us happy; bottom line. Or why would people even leave the house? Especially since Netflix has their documentary game on-point lately.
In a not-so-distant past, I was faced with being “trapped” at the lowest point in my life, thus far. One October morning, I was heading to visit my friend/coach/mentor and found him lifeless in his home. Alone and already in shock, I gathered myself and immediately called for help. The next 60 days were among the worst in my life; how could such a healthy, vibrant and passionate human die at such a young age? Needing a way out of the darkness and in the middle of winter, I found happiness in Trail Running; It Became My Church.
It was my escape from everything I was going through and a time where I felt peace.
Running in the mountains helped me to regain my sense of purpose and clarity. 730-ish days after my uphill inception began, I’ve logged over 1000 miles in 3 states and 4 countries. I spend most of my winters running the mountains of Glacier Park. Icicles form along cliff sides and river bottoms. An occasional Ptarmigan chirp reminds me that not all birds fly south for the winter while an eerie silence remains the constant. I urge you to try it this winter. Sound a bit intimidating? It’s not as bad as it seems. Here’s my Top 5 ways to make it out alive.
Learn from my mistakes and try to only run when temps are double digits (Ideally 20* and above). In the single digits, it is much harder to breath and fingers/toes begin to fall off.
Dress to Compress
Compression-fit cold gear clothing is a must in the mountains. It helps by keeping body heat close to the surface of the skin and provides a bit of elasticity to your joints.
Pro-Tip: Protect yourself from Hypothermia. Even if you’re warm, don’t remove layers to bare skin.
This is the greatest winter invention since the chairlift. Don’t just rely on good shoes for traction; grab a pair of Yak-Trax. They’re like snow tires for your shoes and quite inexpensive.
Even if you’re at Lone Pine or Herron Park, don’t forget that you’re running through a predator’s dining room. Get into the habit of looking around and behind every hundred yards, you can never be too safe. Carry bear spray no matter what.
If you’re in the Flathead Valley, there are several local mountains with great views and clearly marked trails. If you’re in Kalispell, check out Lone Pine and Herron Park; Lion Mountain in Whitefish and Strawberry Lake in the Jewel Basin.
I urge you to find your church. It comes in many forms, colors and sizes. Does it have to be running up a mountain in the middle of winter? No. Does it have to make you happy? Yes because that’s what church is for; a place without judgment where we are happy and free. Find your happy place this winter!