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Blood on the Trails

“You can’t say that”

I looked at him, my skepticism apparent.

“If it were an article, fine. For primetime, no way.”

There was one feature I cared about more than any other in Vancouver and it was this one. A Norwegian cross country skier that dominated his sport, competed with violence and routinely ran guys down at the end of races: I was analogizing him to a hunter and had described him in the world of taciturn Nordic athletes as someone that stood out “like blood on snow.”

“Can’t say that.”

My editor was firm and he had a bigger paycheck, I found something else to write.

But it struck me what a weird relationship we have with blood. The sight of it is so traumatic, it makes some people faint. You’d never guess that half of the world was brought to heel by a bunch of guys promising eternal peace if you regularly consumed the blood of Christ (it helps wash down his body that you just took a bite of).

Blood’s always fascinated me. I find it irresistibly magnetic when used descriptively: Sunday Bloody Sunday, the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ ) Mountains, Blood on the Tracks, Blue Bloods, The Bloods, Bloody Marys, even the Blood Mobile sounds cool. If I had a football team, I’d call them, The Blood Dogs.

And blood’s good you know. It’s what keeps these bodies of ours running. It’s something that everyone needs. It’s a great color, very rich.

When it comes to conversation, nothing gets people going like the sight of blood (provided they haven’t fainted). What is that? What happened? Are you alright? The intensity immediately ramps up when a bit of the crimson’s been spilled. In fact, one night when I was helping my Harvard classmates stuff envelopes for an impending reunion, I’ll never forget the commotion caused when one individual suffered a nasty paper cut and began to wail. At that moment, my suspicion that I’d never really belonged on campus was validated.

One of the things I like about trail running is that it often makes me bleed. Nothing terrible but it’s an odd week that I haven’t nicked something. A stick or a rock, maybe caught my hairy legs on a briar. And when I look down and see blood smeared on my skin, it makes me happy, I like the way it looks. Frankly, it makes me feel kind of tough.

On Saturday, I was coaching my U8 girls soccer team. One of the players came up to me serious as a proctologist, “I’m bleeding,” she said holding up her thumb. Squinting, I could see that indeed a few drops had escaped the fleshy envelope of her body.

“That’s cool,” I said.

She looked at me clearly wanting more. I wasn’t going down the road she wanted to travel.

“You’re gonna be fine. Get out there and play hard.”

Under her strawberry hair, I noticed her brow raised a bit in surprise/realization. She gave the little scratch a parting glance, turned on her heel and took to the field. My world seemed better. And as I felt a surging in my chest (there’s that stuff again) I thought, “maybe her generation will be able to handle an Olympics where blood is used in an analogy.”

There’s always hope.

3 comments on “Blood on the Trails

  1. David says:

    That is an off the wall great topic. I can recall going on Mountain bike rides and having the same feeling. Saying to friends “it is not a real mountain bike ride unless you are bleeding.”

  2. Mary says:


    I think this may be your best yet.

    Dare I say…genius? I gets it is in the blood.


    1. jthompson31 says:

      What can I say? I was trying to avoid work that day!

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