It occurred to me recently that my crazy excitement and itch to do every race and climb every mountain maybe ought to be moderated just a bit. For no other reason than trying not to lose the newness too quickly. Let me explain why.

There aren’t many areas in life where we get to experience the newness of something with full awareness of just how new it is to us. With most of life, we don’t know what we don’t know, and it’s only when we’re looking back on an experience that we see the contrast of how new something was in the beginning when compared to everything we’ve learned about it over time. We may feel the excitement of a new thing or be thrilled at the prospect of something unknown, but it’s rare to look ahead at something new with a compete sense of just how much is waiting to be discovered and how many life-altering experiences lay ahead of you. Trail running, and more specifically mountain running, is taking on exactly that tone in my life.

On Saturday I went out for a somewhat rare solo run and decided to explore a trail I had been seeing from the road for ages but never explored with my own two feet. The feeling was indescribable. The newness of trails and views I had never seen and didn’t know existed, but right there at the base of the mountains I’ve spent nearly my entire life looking up at every single day.

I haven’t had that much of a sense of something so vast being new and unknown to me since I was a child. I feel as though I’m getting a chance to experience that childlike wonder of a whole world being new to me but I get to actually be aware of it and fully enjoy the discovery. It’s so amazing to have something so familiar suddenly be so completely brand new and unknown. The mountains I grew up staring at, or the canyons that I’ve been driving through my entire life, all still full of endless hidden places I’ve never seen or been to because I never spent the time to explore. And even the places I have been before at other times in my life still feel new when I experience them as a runner with a greater appreciation for the mountain experience. It’s an incredibly unique sense of newness because I do know how much there is to see and how much I haven’t done yet. I have lists of all the peaks I want to climb and trails I want to explore and I’ve heard endless stories about all the amazing places I need to see, I just haven’t seen them yet.

Mountain running serves a slightly different purpose for each of us. It makes me so deeply and genuinely happy, and this is usually the point where I throw myself full-force into something because I’m so excited. Not this time. This is one world I’m going to take my time exploring, because this newness, this sense of wonder, this childlike awe at what lay ahead… it’s a rare gift and I don’t intend to squander it.

The journey to the summit of a mountain may give you a sense of having “been there”, but the trail to the top doesn’t scratch the surface of all the incredible things that mountain has to offer you.