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the running usie




the running usie

Carrie Karsgaard

When forced to streamline on a run, I’ll favor my cell phone over spare mitts, an extra energy bar, and even (once, sadly) my car keys. My phone loves to trail run – not only in hopes of rescuing me from an emergency (like the time I split my knee open and walked out of the bush in a smear of Okanagan dust) or catching a photo of an elusive moose, but also to take selfie upon selfie of my running buddy and me. Rene, my running partner, is a slick usie-er, with her phone out of her pack and in her selfie-stick arm before I can say “cheese.”

The running usie is a genre unto itself. At times, there’s an indeterminate view or peak in the background, a finger wavering in the air towards it but slightly askew, so later we think the key to the photo is a wayward cloud.  Other times, it’s just us: smiles pushing tiredness from our faces, dust creasing the lines in our cheeks and eyes, salt rims around our noses, and a sweaty, not-too-close hug.

I recently read another blog post that inquired: “who, truly, is actually going to look at all these selfies?” Do they not simply blend together like the hundreds of kilometers we covered over the past year?

Just yesterday, Rene lamented a (rare) missed usie opportunity. Upon ascending a snowy ridge on Stage 4 in the 2014 Gore-Tex Transalpine Run, we moved through various steps of layering up – long-sleeved wool, wind-proof jacket, waterproof gloves, then – surrounded by gusting billows of snow – a buff, which I pulled tightly around my neck and head, like an Austrian oma, heading out into the wild wind to her neighbour’s for goulash. With gloves already donned (and wet), I yanked the buff over my face with slightly less grace than I would have that morning in my Austrian guest house – bangs tucked in, ponytail appropriately positioned. The misaligned tube was suctioned to my head, chunks of loose hair flapping then sticking to the salt water in the corners of my eyes. It was a matter of survival.

There is no photo proof.

The missed usie looms large every time we recall the ridiculous babushka. If only we could have stepped out of our frozen bodies and whipping hair to catch a usie instead of worrying about where on the iced rocks to place our feet or how long it would be before we could begin the reverse process of layering down. If only we had a photo.

Because we do look at our usies. Rene has a delightful intuition for knowing when I need a laugh. I’ll be hashing through a tough project at work and suddenly see my phone light up with our tired, red, wind-blown faces above a blurred out view. She opens a floodgate of scrolling through old photos and texting back-and-forth trail memories. Because the hundreds of kilometers don’t blend together. We remember our runs: when we slopped through a muddy trail in the Alps, toughed out a tired slog up to the Kettle Valley Railway, or laughed over our own laughter echoing across Rose Valley.

The collection of usies is like our Strava, marking our miles as running partners. But, unlike the time I forget my watch, the missing selfie becomes marked by its absence – and is not forgotten.