I get questioned a lot about my affinity towards running…
“Have you always been a runner? Have you always liked it? Have you ever wanted to stop?”
Short answer, yes. Long answer, it’s been a love-hate relationship since high school. I ran cross country all four years, a) in the shadow of my superhuman, varsity, all-state big brother, and b) because it was a “no-cut” sport which meant that for people like me who sucked at pretty much anything remotely athletic, I was a shoe-in!
I went back and forth over the last 10 years whether or not I actually liked to run, or if I was just trying to stay fit, or was I running away from something? My friends ran, I was an ex-cross country runner, so I was suppose to run, right? My brother ran, my brother ran ULTRAS and it was so BA. *I must be as cool as Ted one day.*
The fact is, to me, road running is the worst. Sorry road runners, but asphalt effing sucks. How are your knees holding up? Your mental state of pounding miles and miles of ugly-ass concrete jungle? I get it, sometimes that’s all we’ve got, and hell, it sure beats the dreaded treadmill. But, for the love of god, PLEASE try to find yourself on a trail one day. It’s cliché, I know, but trails have saved my life, my passion for the outdoors and my sanity (debatable).
The transition from road to trail wasn’t, and often isn’t, an overnight process. I was fearful of snakes, bears, wolverines and murderers. I was scared of falling and ripping my face off on a sharp rock. I was scared of getting lost, being alone or getting injured and having to cut my own leg off à la Aron Ralston. But I knew that I loved to hike and I knew that if I wanted to keep up my love for getting outside, I was going to need to push my fears aside and just do it already.
The love washed over me as if I was sucked over Niagara Falls. I knew I was onto something when I actually itched to go find some dirt. Road running had become a chore at this stage in life. I trained for race after race and lost touch with the once-found freedom of being able to just run. I’m unsure if it was the act of pace training, the counting of street signs and light poles until my next break, the endless circles around the local park or if something more metaphysical happened, but something shifted.
Apparently, trail running has become a very personal activity for me. I realize this more than ever now as I’m writing this. Jimmy asked me, “Why do you run now?” I was overwhelmed with an introspective, emotional disposition.
I run now because it’s evergreen. It’ll never go away, it’ll never die.
- It’s by far the cheapest way for me to continue my love affair with nature and adventuring – never a shortage of new trails and mountains to explore.
- It creates a sense of peace and oneness with the world that I’ve yet to experience any other way. When you’re running through the woods and mountains, you’re able to see more, smell more, touch more. Running my hands across the leaves and bark sends goosebumps over my skin.
- I run for my health. Physically, yes, but more so for my mental well-being, truth be told.
- Listening to the birds sing to one another and smell the clean, fresh air allows me to escape the real world (like my life is SO hard!), and literally breathe easier.
- It’s free therapy. I run now because it gives me time to think, to grieve, to process, to cry, to laugh, to enjoy and to bring everything into perspective.
- You can run the same trail 10 times and it will always provide a new challenge, a new objective. There might be snow, there might be mud, there might be animals. It will always be beautiful.
- The dynamic challenge associated with trail running keeps me alert. You never get bored! There’s always a new rock to jump over or launch off of. There are always new people and new flowers to smell. Head down, toes up!
- The sense of pride and accomplishment keeps me on the trail. I’m not here to win any races, but when I finish any run, low mileage, high mileage, high alpine or not, I’m filled with self-pride. A feeling that’s rare in this world of “I wish I had her ____”, and Keeping Up With The Jones’ mentality. I did it. I fucking ran that mountain.
There are plenty of things that keep me going on the trails. Through injury(ies), fears and failures, I’ve collected a few morsels of wisdom to keep me motivated and loving every stumble, every crash, every sunburn and every sweaty, salty mile…
Knowledge is power.
- Oh, you don’t know where to go? Don’t know which trails are for biking or hiking or what if there’s a special event? Do your homework. There are endless forums and resources available online for every corner of your state. Check out a local gear shop, like Feral, to pick the brains of those who live and breathe this shit. Swallow your ego and have faith in those who’ve carved the path before you.
Trucker hats aren’t just for the bros anymore.
- It’s basic of me to say this, and yes, every other girl on the trail before and after me will be wearing one, too. They fit my misshapen head and keep my sweat from pouring into my eyes, that simple. They come in a million different patterns and colors and they’re often given away at festivals, events and the like fo’ free. Win!
Calories are your friends, friend.
- As read in previous posts and in my daily banter, I love snacks. I had snack time when I was a kid, and dammit, I’ll have snack time as an adult. Your body needs the fuel and the salt and the calories during long, grueling runs up mountains and gaining all the elevation and kicking so much ass. My favorites while running? Real foods, no goos. Think apples for sweetness and energy, nuts for fat calories and to keep you feeling full. And Oreos. Always Oreos.
Really good socks.
- Shoes are one thing, and yes, muy importanté, but what’s protecting your cute little piggies from turning into mangled fangs of flesh is crucial. When you’re logging miles on rough terrain, sometimes wet, muddy, and snowy, you’ll want something reliable. Try wool. Ewe’ll thank me.
Time is no longer on your side.
- When you’re pounding pavement, you’re motivated and encouraged by pace, by time. The biggest mental hurdle I had to jump during my transition was that my pace on trail was significantly slower than on road. I mean, it’s basically fast hiking and praying to god you don’t summersault all the way down the mountain again. Forget everything you learned at track practice; beginner trail running is all about time on feet, not time on the clock.
Alright, enough about me. Get out there, find something to fall in love with and then write your own story. See you on the trail!