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
this lookout…

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.

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  1. Jennifer Closs    

    I’ve always listed my favourite sports as yoga, hiking and running. With trail running I get to run where I love to hike so much and I get to do it faster than I would when just hiking. Hiking has shown me that I can take myself to beautiful places with a little determination and a sense of adventure and I love the sense of accomplishment I get when I’ve done something difficult and I know I’ve pushed myself. After my first trail race last year I felt so TOUGH! I was dirty, exhausted, I had that wonderful runner’s high and it came from spending time in my most favourite place. It’s a very addictive feeling! You might feel like you are playing it safe, and maybe you are pushing the boundaries of your own comfort zone, which is inspiring for others to see and confidence boosting for yourself for certain, but not many people can say they’ve run ultra marathons, and certainly not trail ultra marathons. Girl, you are tough!!

    1. Nikki Scott    

      Thanks Jen! I have to say, I was resistant at first because I was scared by the trails definitely bring out a bit more beast in me (even when it’s just a little trail). Very liberating. Thanks for such a nice comment!

  2. Amber    

    I actually find I’m LESS likely to get injured doing trails. The gentle terrain is just easier on my body and my joints. I can only run 2-3 days in a row MAX on the road but I’ve ran up to 5 days in a row on the trails with no problems! I definitely prefer trail running over road running though I will still always do both trail races and road races.

    1. Nikki Scott    

      That’s what everyone always said but I always chose to disagree. When I was super weak they were so hard and I felt way more susceptible to little injuries and pulls. Now I see that it’s making me stronger and you’re right, I’m probably way less likely to get hurt!

  3. Diana Martinez    

    What Amber commented is similar to what I’ve heard from friends – that trails can be easier on your body than roads. Though if you’re climbing rocks and tripping over tree roots, it can be a different story. =)

    1. Nikki Scott    

      Oh yes, the few times I’ve fallen have hurt pretty bad! Then again, pavement would hurt too. Road rash…ouch.

  4. Krista @ Read. Bake. Run. Repeat.    

    I’m looking forward to trying out some trails this spring/summer hopefully on a few adventures with you!

    1. Nikki Scott    

      Definitely! You can be the caboose with me! Golden Ears here we come!

  5. Amy M. Guimond    

    I want to run trails myself but fear that with my foot and instability issues that stem from it, that i wont be able to handle uneven surfaces. how did you get past that hurdle?

    1. Nikki Scott    

      I think it was a big mental hurdle at first. But once I got over being afraid, I made sure to take it really slow and be very careful. I’m not fast out there on the trails that’s for sure but every little variation makes all those little stability muscles stronger and stronger. It’s worth a try, you just have to make sure you take it slow…

  6. Lauren    

    I just read your posts about your accident and all I can say is HOLY WOW YOU ARE AMAZING. Seriously inspirational. :)

    I am still so new to running and really want to do more runs on trails, but it’s going to have to wait until spring (everything is buried under snow and ice right now). I wish we had the kind of scenery around here that you do.

    1. Nikki Scott    

      Thanks so much Lauren. It’s been a long journey that’s for sure! Thank you so much for such a nice comment.

  7. FineFettle (Michelle C.)    

    Gorgeous photos. Inspiring words. Keep doing what you love and sprinkle in a little challenge and variety. You never know just how far you can go until you do. You also never know how much you inspire others until they tell you: Nikki, you inspire me! Thank you!

    1. Nikki Scott    

      I’m having a crappy week and coming back to respond to these comments has been so good, thanks for such nice words.

  8. 1dad2kis    

    Trails are great. I find it mentally and physically tougher to do road races. I just have to be more careful on trails given my past ankle-related injuries (due to years of competitive tennis).

    1. Nikki Scott    

      For sure, the roads take all my focus whereas the trails take concentration so I don’t fall but they’re more fun in some ways…

  9. Amber    

    I’ve been spending a lot more time on the street lately, I think I’m a trail runner at heart. I got bored hiking one day and just started running. While road running is so relaxing for me (most of the time!!) I find the trails to be so much more fun and each time I get out there I can feel myself becoming stronger. Good for you getting out of your comfort zone!

    1. Nikki Scott    

      Thanks Amber! I’ve always been a roadie at heart but I think I’m making some room in their for the trails. They complement each other nicely I think!

  10. Rachael Pracht    

    I LOVE trail running! I’ll be doing my 2nd trail 50k in April. They cause me to work and think so much harder!

    1. Nikki Scott    

      Fantastic! Which 50k are you doing?

  11. downhillnut    

    I love trails because I feel like they grab my attention better and keep me in the moment. I’m bored or wishing the run is over if I’m truly there, enjoying nature. I also feel trail running makes more parts of me stronger – my balance and stabilizers are challenged, and the softer landings of dirt and snow are better than the consistently repetitive impact on pavement. All that being said, I like pavement for easy days when I just need to get out the door, and also big mileage runs – they’re just easier, and sometimes “easier” gets me going.

    1. Nikki Scott    

      That’s awesome, exactly what I’m going for! I need to work on those stabilizers and balance!

  12. Downhillnut    

    Oops meant to say I’m *not bored*…

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