I am at my best when I have a quiet place to think. I really enjoy my life here, but when I feel overwhelmed, I need to get away. To escape the bustling activity, I delve into a playlist on my IPod, read quietly, or exercise.

Recently though, I have developed a love for running. I’m not fast or competitive. I don’t run to lose weight or stay in shape. No, I’ve found something else in running. This activity’s ability to ground me to the earth and give such a powerful, overwhelming sense of freedom.

Trail running is the best. Out of sight from crowds and surrounded by nature, I find myself completely letting loose, the stress on my shoulders falling away as I build momentum down the trail.

I inhale, drawing the world in around me. I know in an instant that this moment is meant for me.

Outside, alone with my thoughts, any problems I’m facing in the world melt away as I jog down the path that lay ahead. Midway through, I like to stop and feel the energy around me. Legs on fire, my heart pounding, trying to catch my breath but feeling more alive than ever. The rocks, trees and birds seem closer, the energy of the land vibrating beneath my feet. I place my hands to the ground to feel the rugged earth, gripping the stony sediment.

Feeling the dirt now, it’s cold, wet and gritty. Silt left over by glaciers grinding, cutting and sculpting this land for millions of years. I close my eyes and the sandy texture in my hands paints a picture of far away.

I’m walking barefoot in the sand. I can hear the sound of waves lapping up and down the coast. The heat from the sun warming my face as I look toward the sky. I take a deep breath. For a moment, I can feel a cool ocean breeze…

But the cold, sharp mountain air of Denali snaps me back to the present. I smile and continue running, thankful for this time I have to myself.