Footfalls like Snowflakes

Posted by on Nov 8, 2012 in Featured, Running | 0 comments

Footfalls like Snowflakes

I went for a beautiful run from Pipeline Trail out to Elden Spring and back. Although the trails were mostly dry, remnants of the previous snow were draped upon the east side of the mountains. It’s hard to tell whether winter is here to stay. The weather has roller-coastered in temperatures, not showing any commitment to fall or winter.

This is my favorite trail run, a mixture of ups and downs, curvy single track through forests, roadlike straights conducive to active meditation, furnishing dramatic changes of scenery–from boxed-in mini-canyons to spacious, grassy meadows.

I’m running in Saucony’s Kinvara shoe, new footwear for me. Vince at Flagstaff’s running store recommended them. It’s very light (7.7 ounces), made for racing, but works excellently as a minimalist trail shoe. The soft sole allows for sensitive pick-up of the trail’s changing shape and texture. Because the sole is not as protective as a typical trail running shoe, I have to be more careful where I place my foot. If stepped on wrong, a sharp rock can easily leave a bruise. But I’ve gotten so used to minimalist footwear, I don’t think I can go back to the heavily cushioned, raised heel shoes of my past.

One foot in front of the other, covering about 14 miles, each step similar to every other step, but, when I think about it, not really. I start focusing my concentration on the different feelings each footfall produces and think of snowflakes. In the midst of a snowstorm all of the snowflakes look similar, but up close every snowflake is different. Just the same with steps, I notice no two footfalls feel exactly the same.


As the terrain shifts underfoot, the pressure of my foot hitting the ground varies. Angles change, pebbles cause minute adjustments, soil density and softness and hardness vary. Energy waxes and wanes, affecting the way my foot hits the ground. A little soreness in my left knee sometimes causes me to protect it by letting my right foot hit the ground harder than my left. My footfalls create a varying landscape of sensation, not unlike a swirling snowstorm dropping a million different snowflakes to the ground.

The effort of mindfulness is repaid with a realization of the world as a dazzling cacophony of change. The ground of reality is constantly shifting, as is the ground below my feet. Intrusions and inspirations pace outside the door like restless phantoms. They await my attentive company. It will be snowing soon.

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