OPINION: On spring, running and the politics of saying 'hello'

Heron on the Vedder River near the Rotary Trail. - Paul J. Henderson
Heron on the Vedder River near the Rotary Trail.
— image credit: Paul J. Henderson

As sure as the mercury rises, cherry blossoms start to squeeze out of buds, and awkward, over-wintering mosquitoes appear, the Rotary Trail along the Vedder River begins to bustle anew.

Babies who were but glints in their fathers’ eyes a year ago ride in gleaming fitness strollers pushed by new parents, barely holding in their glee at showing off their new pride and joy. Cute babies, too.

Yoga pants and earbuds that haven’t seen the outside of a gym for six months are suddenly out and about, feeling the spring air.

Housebound older folks and those with disabilities no longer have to endure cold, wet and sometimes snowy scenes to get a little fresh air and a much-needed taste of nature.

Spring is here and this popular trail will begin to bustle more and more.

There are, however, a few permanent fixtures all year long along the trail. Unless a sudden warm spell causes huge rushes of water, you can be sure to see at least one hardy angler casting his line hopefully or hypnotically into the rushing waters of this, one of the most popular fishing rivers in North America.

Wildlife, too, while changing year-round, is ever present: bald eagles wait patiently, monk-like in trees; beavers gnaw away at riverside trees clearing the view; and salmon flow up the river, spawn in side channels, their carcasses providing food for those in the air and nutrients for the river’s future.

This place is incredible.

For those of us who use the trail year-round, there is a sense of ownership or at least pride along the river. When mist hangs in the January air like moss on the trees, we exchange nods or hellos.

And as the new year begins, I start my inconsistent “training” for another late spring run of some distance or another. Last year was my first half marathon, spurred on by a little inter-office competition to tackle the distance for the first time ever. (I lost, more reason than ever to train this year.)

This year my training began in the new year again, hampered only by life’s challenges—mostly lack of time and, sometimes, motivation.

But it always feels good to be out there. I used to say I liked running the way I liked banging my head against a wall: It feels really good to stop. It does still feel good to end a run, but as more seasoned runners will understand, there is a sort of running euphoria that sets in at a certain point. It can be intoxicating as ideas that seem brilliant four kilometres into a 10-kilometre jaunt are much less than that under the sober second thought of inaction.

I tend to overthink and over-analyze when I’m mid-run. Recently I made myself fascinated by the politics of greeting in public.

On a city street we rarely exchange greetings. On the trail, in winter, a hello or a nod is near certain.

Some will always say hello. Some never. It’s always hard to guess what someone will do when you meet their eye.

High with the running juices, I run along and imagine how personal history, disposition or cultural differences might influence a greeting. Like the way some flash the backwards peace sign to say “hi,” but in some places this is a big f%*$ you.

So maybe some waves could offend others? Clearly, I think too hard about these things.

Runners almost always exchange nods at minimum, the way motorcyclists put out a low wave to one another. Dog walkers and baby pushers, too, have a certain something in common worth nodding or helloing over. Regardless of why, saying hello adds a certain sense of community.

The Vedder trail sees around 18,000 visits per month in the peak season. Even in winter that number is close to 15,000. This is one of the most popular locations in Chilliwack and it’s easy to see why.

If you’ve been hibernating this winter, or if you’ve never been, get out and check out the river.

And if you see me out there—and I don’t look like I’m going to collapse—say hi or give a wave.

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