by Jake Marshall
Thomas Sumter Academy
(photos provided by South Carolina Wildlife magazine)
We line up, and then the shrill cry of my cross-country coach’s whistle sounds, starting us off running through the green trees. I can smell the woody moist nature after a fresh rain and feel the cool shade coming from the leaves as we pass them by, focusing on nothing but my breathing and my footsteps. As I breathe in, I can feel the woodsy air fill my lungs and then I breathe out with the quiet rasp of the air rushing to escape my lungs.
With every step my feet sink softly into the damp dirt. The dirt is damp today because of the rain just a day prior to now. Just breathing in and out, nothing but the sound of my breath, the sound of feet hitting the ground, and the chirping of the birds lightly telling me to keep going. Breathing in and out. My legs are starting to hurt but the cool air from the shade of the trees soothes them as I continue to run. Trees going by with their beautiful green leaves filling my sight for as long as I can see.
After a little while on the trail we pass a shiny blue lake with fish swimming about under the shimmering ripples. My breathing becomes quicker as I run longer and longer. My feet feel the transfer from soft ground to hard concrete as we run onto the pavement in the park. After a couple more minutes on the park’s wooded sidewalk we break into a clearing as the smiling sun shines its warm light down on me. Looking up I can see the bright blue sky and the white fluffy clouds.
Then I feel another change of terrain under my feet from sidewalk to sand and then to grass as we start passing the baseball fields and the sun starts beating down on my head heating me and the air around me. The humidity is making the heat feel like it is 10 degrees hotter than it really is. I feel like I am in an oven. The heat is tiring me out, making it harder and harder to breathe, but even with this I must continue running as we finally pass the fields.
We hit the paved road again. As we run, I can hear the thump and scrape of shoes on hard pavement. Along with the pavement another new change has been brought forth. The wonderful coolness radiated from the shade of a row of trees. Now that we are back in the cool shade, we start to pick up the pace because we no longer have the hot sun pulling us back.
Our legs are hurting more and more as we go farther and farther. As we reach the end of the road, we hit the soccer fields and with that we also hit the sun again and with it a humid heat taking away all the relief of the cool shade we had just had prior.
As we run through the fields Coach Rob slowly comes into view, and with that the end is in sight. As I run, I think of everything I have seen while I am out running at the park, in the woods, or my neighborhood and what all of these places have in common: the trees, the birds, the nice woody smell, the nature. All of these things can be found in any of these places. South Carolina is an amazing place for nature walks, runs, biking, or anything of the sort with its green leaves upon its woody brown trees, and birds chirping their sweet little songs.
In the spring you can see the new life of trees, flowers, nice bright green grass, baby birds, deer, nice fluffy cute bunny rabbits. In the summer heat you can smell the aroma of barbecue while splashing in the nice cool water of a swimming pool to cool down after being in the heat all day. In the fall the yellow, orange, and red leaves being shed by trees and falling down, down, down, all the way to the ground, and the smokey smell of leaf fires fill the air. In the winter the bitter cold is nipping at your nose, the outside world is beautiful, covered in a thin white frost accompanied by a dense fog, even if it may never snow. No matter what time of year it is, it is always so beautiful with nature easy to find on any day of the week or any season of the year. South Carolina is one of the best places in all of the United States of America to not only see, but also experience the blissful enjoyment of nature.
Thinking of these things going into the final stretch of this run I think of me and my team running on all of the trails we have run together this year. Running day after day in the parks of Sumter, South Carolina enjoying the time to relax and think of all the wonders we see, hear and smell in these places.
Running with my friends through places like this is one of my favorite things to do any day the nature giving us life and my friends giving me reason. As we come upon the end of this run, I think of all the enjoyment I have had during this short time. Once I finally reach the end, I think of how happy I am that I am done I am also somewhat sad because of the fact that we were done but all good things must come to an end. You must eventually leave the woods, you must eventually leave the parks, but all the while you never have to forget the joy those places brought to you.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.