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maggie-lewis-butler-trail-storyI started running the Trail about 1978 wearing polyester tennis dresses and heavy leather K-Swiss tennis shoes. I thought running would help my tennis skills, but actually, it ruined them forever. I am so very glad! Tennis was so competitive, expensive, and for me, not as time efficient for exercise as running. Running was free and freeing – all you need is a good pair of shoes. Men’s Adidas were all that women could find back then.

I remember walking a short distance and then telling myself to run to the next bridge or other landmark. This is how I slowly built up endurance and distance. Soon the Trail welcomed me daily, no matter the temperature or weather. Such a special reward to me after teaching kindergarten all day. It was the best place to reflect on my day, plan activities in my mind, and enjoy being in nature. A moving meditation.

I remember the first time I ran the three mile loop without stopping to walk. I was so excited and energized that I washed my car when I got home. I was thrilled!

I gradually became familiar with the “regulars” during the 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. time frame. I would recognize their gait and exchange smiles. I ran with my teaching buddy, Karen, and gradually got to know runners in the parking lot, so happy when they invited me to run with them. Austin was much smaller then. I would go to a store and someone would say, “I know you from somewhere.” It usually was, “The Trail.” As I increased mileage, I had more wonderful running friends. Karen and I wore our running shorts under our teaching clothes so we wouldn’t waste precious running minutes changing clothes.

I loved running more than anything because of the place I ran. The Trail was a blessing in the middle of our growing city. No cars to watch out for, but instead, there were turtles, swans, changing seasons, hot air balloons, the water, clouds, flowers, buds on trees, fall colors, mosquitoes, puddles, ice, snow, and once, a tornado that made the small rocks sting my skin.

I started running races…. coming in last in my first Austin Runner’s Club Fun Run, that wasn’t fun, but was so very rewarding when I finally crossed the finish line. Then gradually came the longer distances, shocking my parents and myself that I was running marathons. The thrill of my life was qualifying for the Boston Marathon at the Dallas White Rock Marathon in 1987.

None of these life experiences or lifelong friendships would have happened without the Trail. Major life decisions were made while running on the Trail. After eight marathons and two foot surgeries, I slowed down and now am a Trail walker. A smile still appears on my face with joy in my heart when I park my car for a walk.

The Trail is still just as special to me… a slower way to enjoy my friends, cherish the very familiar scenery, see the younger runners enjoying their miles as I did, or just a lovely moving meditation.