Yesterday, I accidentally explored a side of Toronto I had never seen before. In the process, I was reminded about the importance of gratitude and valuing the present.

That morning, I connected with my long-time friend Doug and we decided to join the gang from the Toronto Frontrunners. My plan was to do a long run in preparation for next weekend's Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon. We confirmed via text message and met the group near Church & Wellesley.

As usual, we departed as a large group, making our way into Rosedale and soon descending into the gentle gravel paths of the Don Valley. Our usual long route would take us north to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery and then west along the Kay Beltline Trail, eventually hitting the Allen Expressway before turning south. Doug had other plans.

"I promised Darren we'd do hills," he said to the gang, before leading me (and another runner) east toward Bayview. "I must have missed that nuance in your text messages," I responded, pondering the heavy cycling and brick workout I'd done just 12 hours earlier and the residual fatigue in my legs.

Doug and a friend led me into a park area and then darted off the path onto a thin, dirt trail snaking its way through the landscape. Up and down we ran, around trees, over small rocks, our footsteps light over the soft earth. I smiled, realizing I was officially trail running, for the very first time. I looked at my Garmin, considering what this would mean for my target time and heart rate, which were laid out in my program. And then I looked away, because it didn't matter. I chose to live in the moment and savour the new experience.

Over the course of the next hour, I saw the city from a different perspective, mostly, looking up at it from deep inside the Don Valley. We took trails I didn't know existed, that I had never seen from the paved cycling routes I normally used. We passed a small BMX bike area, where a mother watched her son practising on dirt ramps. We stumbled upon a large group of volunteers planting along one path. And I enjoyed every minute of it, even as we ascended some painfully steep hills.

In running -- and in life in general -- it's easy to get caught up in goals, continually pacing and overanalyzing, striving to beat one's personal best. I admit that at times, I've personally fallen prey to "Garmin-itis," when one pays too much attention to the statistics on their watch and not enough attention to, well, most everything else!

On this run, I felt grateful for the sheer simplicity of my body in motion among the trees. It was a powerful and refreshing experience, to value the now and the present... a reminder that as much as we push to reach our goals and seize opportunities, if we focus solely on the future, we'll miss out on a chance to celebrate everything that's special about the present.