A Quiet December

This December has been a quiet one, filled with a lot of reminiscing about this summer and processing all of it. I knew as soon as I finished the Appalachian Trail, the next thing I wanted to do was to write a book about it. I think it’s important to have an account of what happened, even if it’s just for my own records, and share the story with those that want to listen.

I spent the past two weeks on the Oregon Coast, on a self-imposed solo writing retreat. I booked a cheap, tiny motel room, complete with a nice workspace, a fireplace, and a perfect spot for my keyboard by the window looking out onto the ocean. It’s the kind of thing that sounds really romantic from the perspective of an artist, and even a runner. How often do you get to take the time to focus solely on your craft? It reminded me of the first time I read the cult classic, “Once A Runner” as a teenager and thought how cool it was that the protagonist Quenton Cassidy moved into a cabin in the woods, submitting himself to a brutal training regimen to break four minutes in the mile.

My time on the coast has been productive, but it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. Much like a thru-hiker spending hours on the trail, alone in their head, day after day… it can be boring and repetitive. I’ve had to sit with some thoughts that I don’t necessarily want to sit with, but without any distractions, they keep popping up in my mind until I’m forced to either confront them or accept them. It’s uncomfortable, but much like the mental and physical aspect of training and running, discomfort can lead to growth.

I just completed my eighth week in a row of running 50 miles per week. For how broken I felt in early September, to how awkward my first shuffling steps felt in October, I’m surprised by how natural it feels to just clip along again. There are still remnants and traces of the trail in my still-slightly-larger left toe, my weird rumply-textured toenails, my damaged hair, the various fading scars criss-crossing my shins and knees, and the little cricks and creaks in my hips, ankles, and knees.

Since returning to Oregon, I’ve found myself running almost solely on trails and forest roads, from the Pacific Crest Trail, to Forest Park in Portland, and now on the Oregon Coast Range. I’ve said this before, but I believe it’s true… the forest heals all wounds, even those it inflicted in the first place.


Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed it or felt inspired in some way, you can show your support by buying me a coffee!


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Who is Mercury?

Liz Derstine, trail name “Mercury”, is a distance runner, endurance hiker, writer, and musician residing in Boston, MA. She holds fastest known times for women on the Appalachian Trail (supported, northbound), Long Trail (self-supported), and Pinhoti Trail (self-supported).

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