Running the hills

Some generations ago, my family scoured the Scottish highlands. By day, dressed in their finest plaids and hose, they leapt along the mountainsides like stags.

chasing the red coats

By night, sitting around the hearth drinking scotch, they told stories about the mountains they loved.

fireside chat

Then one day, someone told them a story about Canada. Jovial adventurers, they adjusted their plaids, rolled up their hose, and sailed across the sea.

But when they arrived, something was missing.

missing the mountains

So, they traveled inland.

After trudging through an endless flat forest, they came across some hills, but they weren’t exactly the highlands of home.

Just wee hills

So they picked up their suitcases and hopped back on the train.

But, beyond the wee hills, all they saw was flat.

prairies and rockies

They turned around, and when they arrived back at the wee hills, they unpacked their suitcases, peeled off their hose, and decided to stay.

They built houses.

They settled towns.

Eventually, the wee hills became home.

jumping the valley

To my ancestors, they were just wee hills.

But to me, the day before an ultra trail race, they were mountains.

It had been years since I’d visited what were now known as “the hills” and, as my husband and I scoped out the race location the night before my race, I was humbled by what 2800ft of vertical ascent really looked like.

gonna have to go monk

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was scared the hills would break me.

I knew that they could.

death to fleck

As I bounced between fatigue and panic, I thought about my history in the hills.

I thought of my great grandmother who, a century before, refused to say “obey” in her wedding vows, and I thought of my great grandfather who loved her for it.

a mind of her own

They climbed these hills.

I thought of my grandmother who, having little, raised 8 children nearly all on her own while she kept the family farm going.

I can do this

She worked these hills.

I thought about my great uncle who, despite crashing his plane 3 times in two world wars, survived with a just broken nose.

broken nose

He walked home to these hills.

Suddenly, I sat up.

I pulled the covers back, and looked at my feet. I wiggled my toes.

Generations of my feet had scoured these hills.

“You’ll know what to do,” I said to them and, finally, I fell asleep.

my hills

The morning of the race, I put on my running skirt, rolled up my compression socks, and got ready for battle.

i got this


“How do you feel?” my husband asked as we pulled up to the race.

“Hmph,” I replied, staring down the hills ahead.

“You’ve gone monk, haven’t you?” he asked.

“Nay, I’ve gone Fleck.” I whispered.

she's gone fleck

The gun went off.

When the hills got so steep that I needed a rope for support, I climbed them. When my quads burned and my eyes stung with sweat, I worked through the pain.

I dodged wasps’ nests.

yellow jackets

I ran through meadows and jumped over rivers.

leap like the stag


Finally, I jumped the finish line.

beer me

Race complete, I grabbed a pint of beer and walked out into the meadow to look back at the hills.

thank you feet

Soon after, my husband walked over to me.

“Something tells me you’ve got a story to tell,” he said.

I adjusted my skirt and looked down at my feet. I wiggled my toes.

“No,” I replied, still looking at my feet, “this story belongs to them.”


time to walk home


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