Vulnerability. It is an emotion we have all tried to numb, have attempted to avoid, and chosen to ignore. It is really not a feeling that many look to embrace or seek out to experience. It’s often associated with discomfort and uneasiness. I have, however, come to understand that it is when you find the courage to leave yourself open, let your guard down, lean into the discomfort and experience fear, that this is the time and this is the space that the best of love, beauty, and greatness can emerge.

I ever so slowly shifted my hand downwards and hesitantly turned off the ignition and could feel the beat of my heart gradually quicken. I guess it wasn’t necessarily a big deal that I was about to go out on a group run. I had been on tons of those and in my experience running communities are always welcoming and friendly. This time, however, felt different. It wasn’t just a run, it was the start of a new beginning, it was the opportunity to meet new people, it was a chance to create friendships and to begin my Canmore journey in a direction I wanted to walk. I felt like it was my first day at a new school and felt as though you would on such a day; excited, exposed, and vulnerable. Would people like me? Could I keep up with them? Was I foolish to think as a single woman entering into her mid-thirties, that I could successfully start fresh in a new town, not knowing a soul. Wasn’t I supposed to be ‘settling down’ and having babies right now?

I had been informed by my one and only Canmore friend of a few different biking and running groups and I had my sights set on them prior to my arrival. I exchanged emails with the organiser of a group called Canmore Trail Culture, who happily welcomed me, as with all newcomers, with open arms. I was told to bring spikes and a headlamp and of the regular Tuesday timing that I briefly and confidently acknowledged, without knowing what spikes were or owning a headlamp. At that time, I really didn’t know much about this group or it’s runners, but I have since come to realize that this group and the members involved are so much more than a group of people who just get together to run.

Equipped with ‘spikes’ and a newly purchased 80 lumens headlamp (which I now know, is not really enough lumens). I drew my hand from the ignition, and opened the car door to walk towards the house that I arrived at exactly 10 minutes prior to start time. It was -22 Celsius (C) that day, and I wondered how many people would show, but quickly learned that Canmore folk are the definition of ‘troopers’. I slowly walked into the house and was greeted with a few smiling faces and was ushered in. I somewhat awkwardly introduced myself to a few people directly surrounding me and engaged in some idle chit-chat to wait for the others to arrive.

The group’s leader and organiser, whom I had previously exchanged emails with, was referred to as ‘Fitzy’. He must be nice, I thought to myself, as people with nicknames generally are. I observed the group, the smiles, the connections, the playful banter amongst them, and the buildup of excitement (even with the absurd freezing temperatures) as the minutes to hit the trails drew closer. Still feeling relativity uncomfortable in the unfamiliar setting, I was singled out as the new girl that evening (in a very nice way and welcoming way mind you), and I gave a quick head tilt, flashed a small smile and then we were off (thank god).

The discomfort melted off my shoulders and I felt at ease as I placed one foot in front of the other and entered into another kind of unknown territory and terrain. But for me, this was a comfortable place and a familiar place, because I was running. That evening, as we hopped over logs, maneuvered around trees, and ran along what felt like an enchanted trail, I felt the warmth of each of the members who I had chatted with along the way, even with the freezing temperatures. As the run came to a close, my small smile doubled and I knew that I had found something special, and thought to myself, maybe I had found a home.

Since that first run over two months ago, I have made every effort possible to attend each of the Canmore Trail Culture Tuesday evening trail runs and I will forever support what has been created by Fitzy and his faithful followers. Yes, this is a ‘trail running group’ and a very good one with some very talented runners, but this Tuesday evening run is not just a run. This is a family of people who support each other, it is a network of individuals who care about the community, who connect to others and grow because of them, who cheer on and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. They smile, laugh, and play together and seem to have something secretly figured out in life. And I am very happy to feel like I, too, have found a home amongst this amazing group filled with remarkable people.

Moving to a new town by yourself, quitting your job, saying ‘I love you’ first, starting your own business, reaching out for help, falling but deciding to get back up, joining a running group, investing in a relationship that may not work out, trying something new, signing up for a race. No matter the endeavor, regardless of how big or small it may appear, doing something that has no guarantees and embracing vulnerability is where some of the greatest of things are born.

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