Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chemin du Buttereau

(Please click on each picture for a better view)

Longevity in the distance running is intertwined with heavy doses of health, luck, and spirit. Longevity is something I have been blessed with in this sport. I have been running for 40 years and have won races overall in 6 different decades

In this post, I will share a source of my spiritual renewal. It is a running course I call Chemin du Buttereau (or just Chemin for short) after the Cape Breton Highland National Park trail that makes up the bulk of the course. The course starts right in front of the modest cottage I own in Petit Etang, Nova Scotia. Within one minute of running along the Cabot Trail you enter the national park running over a bridge crossing the Cheticamp River. A quick swing around the park visitor center and you go through the campground. Back to the Cabot Trail for a 150-200 meter section around a pond. Now you start the well groomed hiking trail called Le Chemin du Buttereau. The trail climbs for a couple hundred meters. It then follows the river in rolling fashion shaded with assorted glimpses of river, emerald colored delta islands,beach and ocean. Once you reach the mouth of the river at the ocean (Gulf of St Lawrence), there is a one kilometer loop that I never tire of, physically or spiritually. The waves thunder majestically against the cliff on the ocean side. I often see whales in the water here.

Eagles glide apparently motionless in the thermals above this spot. The meandering course of the river on the riverside has water that glistens like silver in the daytime sun. Troubles melt away. The only decision that has to be made is how many kilometer loops shall I run today.

It is the only course I have that I get a sense of disappointment when I turn back home rather than add another loop. The course is challenging but not so challenging that you couldn't run it on many consecutive days. The footing is of speed work quality. The trail isn't the only good scenery on the run. Here is the campground road only minutes from home.

When I had cardiac problems a couple of years ago and thought running might become a thing of the past, you get a feeling of loss. It was not the loss of racing skills that hit me the hardest. The thing I mourned most was not being able to run Chemin. This is when I realized the value of priceless intangibles I already had.
The cardiac problems cleared up. I am back to racing and more importantly, back to Chemin. My first run on this course of every trip now starts with a Rocky-like arms in the air exultation when I reach the river ocean junction. This new crazy running ritual will no doubt last as long as I am able to run.

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