|Navigational Art and Directions By Colleen Yorke, © 2015.
I still remember my very first long distance run. My classroom teacher, also my math teacher, decided to educate us about the Brocken, legendary known as the Blocksberg. With an altitude of 1,141 meters (3,743 ft) it is the highest peak of the Harz mountain range in Northern Germany. We accompanied him on a week-long trip to Wernigerode. Until then, no one realized that our studious teacher, who always rode to school on his bike, was an avid mountaineer and runner. Over the course of a week, we suddenly found ourselves on more fields, trails and slopes of the mountain than we ever cared to see. We wandered the Goethe Way, and we stood before the Devil’s Pulpit.
The mountain somehow appears so germanically stoical, so understanding, so tolerant, just because it affords a view so high and wide and clear. And should such mountain open its giant eyes, it may well see more than we, who like dwarfs just trample on it, staring from stupid eyes. -Heinrich Heine, Harzreise
On our last day we visited a small village at the foot of the mountain. It was a filled day of store-browsing and picking out souvenirs, eating ice cream, and writing postcards to loved ones back home. Then we missed the bus. Our teacher did not hesitate: “It is only 10 kilometers. Let's jog.” And, with our little backpacks bouncing up and down, we did. To this day, I remember the burn in my legs, but most importantly I remember our encounter with the Brockengespenst (Brocken Spectre). Just before sunset, a magnified shadow, almost ghostly outline of a person thrown onto a bank of cloud and engulfed by rainbow-like bands appeared before our eyes. What startled us was of course not a stranger, but our teacher’s own shadow magnified by a glory ring.
All talk of the point of running actually misses the point. Running is a place where I remember what I used to know. It is not the point of running. It is what running is.