My husband and I were driving to a race Saturday morning and heard an interview with Wendy Williams, author of the new book The Horse. NPR’s Scott Simon asked Williams why humans and horses are so drawn to each other, and she said something I just haven’t quite gotten out of my mind. She called both humans and horses “traveling animals.”
The concept struck both my husband and me. As frequent travelers and avid runners, we can embrace Williams’ description of humans as traveling animals. It seems the perfect way to describe us.
On one of our favorite North Carolina running trails, bicycles aren’t allowed, but horses are. For the most part, runners and horses coexist well. I’ve learned to call out if I’m nearing a horse and its rider. Sometimes, it’s clear to me that I can trust the horse even if its rider is a bit daft. On beautiful days, especially weekends, trails are packed with horses and runners alike, traveling up trails and down, heading toward mountain tops or scenic overlooks or low-lying lakes.
Horses and their riders out on a beautiful day while I hiked with my camera
One of my all-time favorite horse pictures: a horse rests before the ride back down the mountain
For those ultra runners among us (I haven’t yet succumbed to that level of challenge/training rigor/resilience/insanity, but my husband has), we can thank horses—or perhaps the want of a horse—for the birth of the 100-mile trail race.
This Saturday marks the lottery opening for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, now more than four decades in the making. Look at the history of the race, and you’ll discover it all started with a horse race. But in 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh hadn’t replaced his lame horse and, not wanting to miss out on a race he had enjoyed in prior years, decided to run the race on foot. He completed it just 13 minutes shy of the horse race’s 24-hour limit. His effort that day inspired a foot race that has become one of the most prestigious of ultra marathons. (Don’t miss the superb Salomon video The Original highlighting Ainsleigh and the history of Western States.)
From Old Testament times onward, we humans have been traveling animals, and other animals have tagged along with us for the journey, inspiring us and helping us reach places and realize dreams we might not otherwise achieve.
How about you? Do you consider yourself a traveling animal? Do you prefer to travel on foot, by bike, on horseback, in a car, on an airplane?