#52sparks: Faceless Portrait

Run. Walk. Up. Down. Stumble. Sweat. Regret. Hold On.

These and many more were the experiences of my 13 miles wandering Powell Butte two weeks ago. I should be spending a lot more times on hills and mountains in training for my ultra marathon in April…yep, I should totally be doing that…yep.

I had a day off of work and no excuses to not spend a few hours of it on the trails instead of on my couch. Powell Butte is a wonderful little park in SE Portland with trails that lead into and out of the woods in all sorts of directions. And somehow they also all lead back to the visitor center at the top, which is fabulous for someone like me with minimal sense of direction. With 13 miles on the schedule, I just followed every trail to see where it led. And when they led to the bottom of the mountain, I said a few grumpy words and found another trail to get me up again.

Over the course of about three hours, the trails started to feel familiar, as did other runners and hikers wandering that afternoon. In a city with hundreds of thousands of people, this park is an oasis of quiet trees, and the occasional animal sighting that reminds us that this is their home and we are the visitors.

At 10 miles I wanted very much to quit. I told myself that I’d go home, eat some food, and then finish up 3 more miles in my neighborhood. Luckily me, myself, and I knew that was a lie so we kept moving. One foot in front of another, down one trail and up another. The last swigs from my water bottle poured over my head for the final mile. After pushing end on my watch, I walked slowly through the parking lot, grateful to be done and looking forward to my self-promised salad rolls from a food cart. My shadow stretched out under the afternoon sun, and the shirt tied around my waist fanned out behind me like a cape rather than a remnant of a cold breeze hours before.

It was not a pretty run by any definition. But it was a finished one. And that felt heroic.


“We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down” (Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Last Jedi). – #52sparks is my year-long writing series for 2020, based on an art prompt challenge. The spark that lights a fire to toast a marshmallow or to ravage a forest begins in the space of an inch. This series is to explore what hundreds of inches and words can do.

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