My marathon run at Zion National Park was fabulous but my body took a pounding. I left my car at the park visitor center and took a private shuttle to the Hop Valley trailhead. I ran the Connector Trail to the Wildcat Canyon Trail to the West Rim Trail and down to the Grotto trailhead. From there I followed along the Virgin River until the trail ended on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. I ran on the road to shuttle stop three at Canyon Junction and took the bus back to the visitor center. Total distance was just under 27.5 miles and offered me the best views of Zion Canyon in the park.

It wasn’t the little extra distance that beat me up. First, I fell at only 0.7 miles into the run. I wasn’t paying attention on a nice flat section of single track trail and caught a toe. I landed on a rock which bruised my right hip. Luckily it wasn’t bad enough to make me stop. It did leave a nice bump and blue mark later. This is only the second time in 20 trail marathons that I’ve fallen.

Second, while the route had 2,913 feet of ascent which is modest, it had 5,233 feet of descent much of that at the end. All the breaking during steep downhill beat up my quads. I was sore.

Almost two solid hours of downhill running! Ouch!

After the run I was relaxing in the clubhouse at Willow Wind RV Park and Campground in Hurricane, Utah. I was icing my hip and watching World Series game five with two other guests, Jose and Frank.

In between innings we chatted about where we were from, what brought us to Utah and other similar topics. Frank is a retiree on his way to California from Montana to visit his daughter. He loves the Zion area and comes often to mountain bike.

Jose has been living at the RV park for almost four years. He is originally from Washington Heights in Manhattan. We chatted about NYC for a bit. He’s been gone from the City for close to 30 years and has no plans to go back. I also got the impression that he was retired.

Frank asked what I eat when doing all this running. This is a common question. I explained that I eat vegan – as much fresh produce as possible and a hearty amount of rice and beans.

Jose jumped in to say that he loves to cook: it is a passionate hobby. I mentioned to them that I believe eating simply is healthy but I also said that when back in NYC I didn’t prepare anything complex because I didn’t believe it was worth the effort for only one person.

Jose emphatically disagreed. He said that even though he lives alone, every day he prepares himself a fully cooked dinner, eaten on nice plates with a glass of wine. He said with full conviction: You need to love yourself and treat yourself well. If you don’t who will?

You could see that lived by his words. He was a very happy, laughing man. He loved himself. It didn’t matter what things he has or doesn’t have. It didn’t matter that he lives in an RV park. He didn’t care what other people thought.

Since then I’ve recounted his words many times.

I admit that I get caught up in using external comparisons to measure internal happiness and that makes me, not happy. I don’t always love who I am. I beat myself up for not earning more, moving up faster, having “nicer” things. I compare myself to my business school colleagues who are more “successful”. I still get caught up in the American cultural expectations for more, for bigger, faster, better, fancier, but funny enough, not happier.

I had started a physical and mental purging before I left New York City and I’ve continued it on my trip. Not being as worried about what people think is liberating. It is not an easy habit to break though. I often have panics that “I have nothing”. I don’t own a house. I’m not renting a nice apartment. I don’t even have a job. What the hell am I doing?

In comparison to some, I don’t have a lot. In comparison to many, many others here and around the world, I am very well off. So instead of continuing to beat myself up, I try to turn it around.

My abilities and prudent planning have allowed me to take a trip many only dream about. I am physically and mentally able to complete a marathon a week in the most beautiful places in our country. I am being very cautious about the money I spend on this trip (I’m typing this in the common area of an $11 per night hostel in Moab, Utah) but I try to make sure I treat myself well. I rarely eat at restaurants but I don’t scrimp on the quality of food I buy at grocery stores. I acquire solid gear when needed. I have an subscription (which is totally worth it for all the ass time I have in the car). I meditate at least 30 minutes every day. And, every time I enter a National Park, I am in awe.

This trip is treating myself well. This trip is showing self-love. This trip is expanding my belief in what is possible for me and for others. What I have or don’t have compared to the rest of the world is irrelevant.

I encourage everyone to periodically stop and check how they feel about themselves. How’s your self-love? Are those feelings genuine or contingent on some external measure?  Are you waiting to treat yourself well until you’ve bought, achieved, created, or earned just that bit more? Recognize if you are caught up in it. That little bit more won’t change things. You are worthy by being who you are not by what you have. Ask people who care for you. They will let you know.

Treating yourself well can take many forms. For Jose it was cooking for himself.  For me it is this trip. What is it for you?

GPS capture of the route -
Photos from Zion -

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