When I first started running, I was actually kind of amazed that I could even do it. I mean, I knew I’d be able to run but I was so pleased to find I could do it without a huge amount of extra pain like they warned would likely happen. I kept running and always sort of believed I was able to keep at it because I ran ‘safe’.
I don’t mean ‘safe’ in the sense of safety gear but ‘safe’ in the sense that I played it safe when it came to running. Flat roads, content at my slow speed, never daring to push myself too hard in case it was too much for me and my post-accident body to handle. But I was happy with that.
When friends suggested I try trail running, my immediate reaction was, “Oh no, I’m not tough enough for that.”
Truth is, I’m plenty tough but I didn’t think my weak core and unstable hips were strong enough to handle running on such uneven ground. Not to mention the hills! Running was too precious to me to take the chance of hitting the trails and getting hurt.
They eventually wore me down and before I knew it, I was toeing the line at my first trail race last summer. It was going to be okay though, I had a plan. Take it nice and slow, walk lots and just have fun. I came in nearly dead last but I did have fun.
|Photo courtesy of Rob Shaer and 5Peaks|
Over the summer I dabbled a bit more on the trails, ran a few more races and group runs with much more experienced friends. It was definitely a lot harder than the calm, predictable roads I was used to but something about the un-predictability of trail running was calming in itself. Our forests are just gorgeous, the trees majestic and even though I spent most of my time looking down at my footing, I could feel the beauty I was immersed in. And flying downhill, well, that’s about as high as a runner’s high can get!
|It honestly doesn’t get much more beautiful than
In October I ran the Baker Lake 50k and though not a super technical trail ultra, it was much harder than the 56k road ultra I did in May. But it didn’t matter. I was with good friends, in such a beautiful place and even though I was tired and slow, I couldn’t deny it any longer. Me and trails? Falling for each other just a little bit.
|Maybe a little too excited for 25k into a 50k race
but it was such a great day so far
Fast forward to now and I am still a road runner at heart and always will be. The roads are where I found my legs again and discovered how good it feels to set a goal and do the impossible. The roads are my happy place, my thinking place, my ‘place to be me’ place.
What I’ve realized though is that the trails are a fun place, a challenging place and for me, can be a strength-building place. With each of the few trails runs I’ve done in the past year I feel like I’ve gotten stronger, sometimes mentally but always physically. The uneven terrain is far more taxing for my body but I am growing to appreciate how beneficial that is. It’s harder but as I get stronger I think challenging myself with uneven ground and more varied movements will help strengthen instead of just tire me out.
I don’t live near the North Shore and don’t have nearly the opportunity to run trails as much as some people do but I’m taking baby steps and trying to incorporate more trails wherever I can. Even if all I can find is a little bit of dirt here and there, I have found some truly beautiful new places to run right here in my community.
|The beautiful sun in Crescent Park on Friday|
We have a wonderful network of regional parks where we’ve moved and although they’re not technical, single-track trails, they’re uneven and muddy and unpredictable in their own way. I feel challenged, just a little bit tough and just happy to have the chance to spend some time in our beautiful parks. Lately I’ve made an effort to include as many of them as I can in my runs and it’s been a welcome change as I peak in my training for LA.
|Who wouldn’t be tempted to leave the road and
explore a trail like this?
I’m hoping this summer will bring some more real trail adventures my way but in the meantime I’ll keep working on shedding that tendency to always ‘play it safe’ and let myself explore. I don’t want to just play it safe anymore, I want to get out and get my shoes dirty just a little more often.