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  • Writer's pictureEmily Hutchins


Updated: Jul 29, 2020

It's certainly been an interesting start to 2020. I've been hesitant to write about it because of certain perceptions that exist and for having opportunities to enjoy the outdoors through this challenging time. It's time to share as I hope it may inspire others.

At the beginning of the pandemic in March, things changed overnight. Our jobs were drastically different, plans were canceled, we dealt with daily fear, anxiety and misinformation ... the outlook of COVID-life looked pretty grim. Those who know me well understand that I am very goal-oriented, so I struggled with how to set goals in this new environment. To maintain my anxiety and sanity, I managed to engage in a lot of outdoor pursuits with small groups of select friends over the past 6 months.

At first, we were very quiet about our outdoor activities, in fear of being judged by others for not doing everything solo. With trail running, I enjoy solo runs, but if I'm doing something long and challenging, I like to have a partner for safety reasons and as a social outlet. As more research findings came out about COVID, we began to understand that being outside (in small groups) is a safe activity. We always practiced precautions such as driving separately to trail heads, maintaining distance on the trails, blowing snot rockets to the side of the trail, etc. and I can honestly say that this has been one of the most incredible 6 months that I've ever experienced in my life...and here's why.

Opportunity to "slow down".

It seems normal in our culture to "go hard" in life and overextend ourselves, with our jobs, travel, events, and personal/family engagements. It's been eye-opening to have absolutely everything cancel and start with a clean slate. I've learned I don't always have to be doing all the things or going places. In regards to running, it's been so refreshing to just go out for a run and just be. No need to run a bunch of miles for training ... or if I'm feeling good, maybe I just keep running until I feel like stopping.

Many weekends have been filled with new adventures. We've explored and ran in our favorite "local" spots, in addition to new runs in WV, Grayson Highlands, and Apple Orchard Falls to name a few. We've witnessed the change in seasons, from a beautiful, rainy spring, to humid summer days, learned new wildflowers and saw lots of wildlife, swam in icy creeks and ran through snow at Mountain Lake.

Experienced new endeavors, like gravel biking!

Jeremy bought me a gravel bike for my birthday and I'm enjoying it just as much as trail running as it has opened up a whole new world of outdoor fun. We've done some sweet rides in Floyd, Giles, Craig and WV so far with more on the horizon. The biking is making me stronger as I've tried to build up my biking legs. It's completely different than running and I'm so inspired by my biking friends who are so much faster ... one day I hope to hang.

Became even more empowered by my female tribe.

I am so grateful for the amazing group of women friends I have in my life. There is something super special about the incredible bond you build when exercising outside with friends. It is my absolute favorite form of socialization! Nothing brings me more gratitude then hanging with my ladies in the woods, talking about life, setting goals, and having fun.

Accomplished goals, like setting our fastest time yet on the Catawba Run Around.

We did a little thing a couple weekends ago called the Catawba Run Around, which is a challenging ~33 mile loop that incorporates the Appalachian Trail with North Mountain. Nothing about this run is easy as there is nearly 8K of total elevation gain and lots of steep ascents and descents. Our ladies group decided to start on a Friday night around 11 p.m. to run through the night and avoid the heat. Another group of lady friends started at 4:30 a.m. and they all finished the Triple Crown version for their first time!

All 6 of us had our own challenges, but we did it - I'm still reveling in this achievement and the strength and motivation that each one of these ladies hold within themselves. These endurance challenges translate to overcoming all types of obstacles that life throws our way -- stressful pandemics, financial challenges, family issues, injury, and losses. The best moments in our lives are not the passive, relaxing times…. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Let's get out of our comfort zones, break our patterns, and challenge ourselves. Because at the end of these adventures there are fruit loops, jello pie, and tallboy brews just waiting to be consumed.

I'm excited for what the future brings our way ... and the goals we set and accomplish together.

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