Do you have a place that you call your own? A place that, on the outside, is just a park or a road or a river, and while it may be beautiful to begin with, it holds so much more meaning and importance to you?

A few days ago I went for a regular run at Natirar Park, a 404 acre hidden gem where I was born and raised …my beloved New Jersey. From the main road, it simply looks like a long driveway with fields surrounding it, making it a secret spot known only to those who seek it out.

It’s amazing how attached you can become to the places you run in. It’s no different than the sunset and sunrise a surfer holds in his heart from breaks he grew up on. Or the morning route a cyclist rides at dawn to start her day. Or that one spot in the river down stream that a fly fisherman can call his very own.

The places where you do the things you love become a fundamental part of you.

Natirar Park is my place.

There are two connected loops there, each about 1 1/2 miles around. The first loop circles a gigantic, grassy field void of anything else except for a single fifty foot tree that rests in the center. Seeing it from any point of the loop makes me feel like I’m running through a Robert Frost poem (“I wonder about the trees. / Why do we wish to bear / Forever the noise of these / More than another noise ” – The Sound Of Trees by Robert Frost).

Every now and then after my summer runs I’ll sit under the tree and drink a cold Corona with lime and watch the sunset over the tree-line. I like to call these moments “Perfect Solitude” because there are fewer moments than these that I feel so completely content and at peace with myself. Cold beer after a solid run may not seem like the best combination, but it does wonders for my mental health. It’s my own little moment of happiness.

The second loop only opened up a year and a half ago. It’s a grassy trail, with wild flowers and tall grass growing within it’s curving and hilly paths. Every now and then a buck will be standing out there eating it’s dinner and we’ll make eye contact and watch each other as I run by him. You’d never guess that New York City and the hustle and bustle of the northeast is only a short drive from this grassy trail. My whole world is calm here. There’s no rush. No haste.

This place picks me up when I’m down. It lifts me up higher when I’m already smiling. It’s been there for me guiding me with no bias or expectations when I’ve been at my worst and at my best. It’s shown me how to relax and be in the present and notice every little beautiful detail around me. It’s taught me how to perservere even when it feels like my last breath has escaped me.

Whenever I want to run from things in life, I go back to my runs here in my mind, and I remember that no matter how many laps it takes me to get through it, there’s always a cold beer waiting for me underneath a beautiful tree.


Photography of Natirar Park: Septimus Low


About The Author

Lauren Rains is the editor at large of Outdoor Minded Mag. She is struck by wanderlust, and spends most waking hours of her life either exploring the outdoors around the globe or working on various passion projects be it film to microadventures to cooking chili. You can read about her adventures in life, biz and travel on her blog, and catch up with her on Twitter at @LaurRAINS.