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.
By night, sitting around the hearth drinking scotch, they told stories about the mountains they loved.
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.
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.
So they picked up their suitcases and hopped back on the train.
But, beyond the wee hills, all they saw was flat.
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.
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.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was scared the hills would break me.
I knew that they could.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The morning of the race, I put on my running skirt, rolled up my compression socks, and got ready for battle.
“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.
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.
I ran through meadows and jumped over rivers.
Finally, I jumped the finish line.
Race complete, I grabbed a pint of beer and walked out into the meadow to look back at the hills.
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.”
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