personal & miscellany, running & racing

Carving out time

I’m nearing the end of two weeks of vacation, the longest stretch of time that I’ve ever taken off from work, in 20+ years of continuous full-time employment. We spent about a week in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and I have spent the other half at home, doing a bit of catching up on my life, and a bit of absolutely nothing.

Harney granite, Ponderosa pines, and changing yellow birch trees in the Black Hills of South Dakota

“South Dakota?” asked nearly everyone I talked to in preparation for being away these two weeks. “What’s in South Dakota?”

Given the nature of the work that I do, spontaneously packing up and heading out for long stretches of time isn’t feasible. Taking two weeks off isn’t a difficult thing for me to do, exactly. It just takes some planning. I’m not generally looking far enough out to carve out time for vacations with intention, so I end up squeezing them in where I can. This time I blocked off the time months in advance and resisted – sometimes with great difficulty – the impulse to fill in those gloriously blank spaces on my calendar.

We contemplated South Dakota as our destination, as there’s an early-October marathon at the Crazy Horse Memorial that I’ve been eyeing since a dear friend moved to Sturgis a few years ago, who I’ve wanted to visit. I started half-heartedly training for the race (since I wasn’t sure I would run it), and then while visiting with my parents this summer, learned that seeing the iconic carvings at Mount Rushmore is on my stepdad’s “bucket list.” I asked if they’d come and join us if I ran the race, and they were all in. So that officially put me all in, too. I signed up for the marathon and picked up a guide book, discovering quickly the answer to “What’s in South Dakota?” A LOT.

We rented a little cabin in the town of Custer, in the Black Hills National Forest, and enjoyed visiting state and national parks, and all manner of fascinating sights, including the world’s largest mammoth dig site and an 8,000 foot deep former gold mine that’s now being used as an underground laboratory for studying neutrinos and dark matter. Astrophysicists solving the mysteries of the universe, right there in South Dakota – who knew? My mom and stepdad joined us for the last few days of our stay, which included the marathon and a visit to Mount Rushmore, among lots of other fun stuff – including an encounter with a pack of wild donkeys! I got to visit my old friend Pam, get to know her lovely community in the northern hills, and see the new art that she’s been creating. The marathon took us up to the base of the jaw-dropping Crazy Horse Memorial (the largest mountain carving project in the world, in progress), and along the rustic Mickelson Trail. We were floored by the beauty of the Black Hills and the badlands to the east, and managed to take in a lot while keeping a leisurely pace. And happily, we returned home in the nick of time, just ahead of the first big snow storm of the season.


Once again, running has brought me the gifts of travel, new experiences, and time spent with people I love. And I learned the value of blasting out a big, deep hole in my calendar every once in a while.

~ check out our online photo album if you’re interested to see more ~

3 thoughts on “Carving out time”

  1. Thank you for sharing, it is so important to take the time to recharge, but why is it always for difficult for us to actually make it happen? Loved this, and I love South Dakota. I saw Crazy Horse when I was a child, I was so in awe of it’s immense size. Welcome home.

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