Sep 13, 2010

Trail Running Thoughts

I wanted to put into words my feelings and thoughts on trail running since I am in the middle of training for my first 50 mile trail race in the Rock'n River 50miler on October 16 in Auburn, CA after completing my third 50km (~31mi) run in the Bulldog 50K in a personal best time.  The main reason I started trail running was, simply, to keep in shape for wilderness backpacking, which is my passion.  Physically, backpacking is not easy if you're looking to hike a relatively high number of miles per day, under certain challenging conditions (i.e. elevation, weather, minimal food, etc.), consistently over a period of time.  So, staying in shape keeps me ready for backpacking at whatever time of year.  Fortunately, for me, this provides a whole host of other physical and cognitive benefits that range from having a good cardiovascular system, low body fat levels, higher energy levels, and glad-to-be-alive feelings. I never ran in high school or college but after my first long-distance backpacking experience in 2006 I became intrigued at the small, some would say eccentric, world of trail running.  Now, obviously and purposefully, I say "trail" running because not only is it specific to the wilderness conditions backpacking takes me through and the a natural environment, but because I can say that I have come to deplore road running.  All of my longer races have been on trail except the Los Angeles Marathon which was a complete sensory overload with the hoards of people, unrelenting advertisement, and banging on the unnatural hard top.  I have to add that I dislike driving, cars, and the extent to which roads (e.g. development) have taken over this country; so it seems like disliking road running is a natural fit. Even though it is impractical for me to run (or train) on trails everyday I suspect that I will not be participating in any road events in the near future.  Experiencing nature, the solitude, sounds, smells, and unpredictable terrain makes trail running deeply satisfying.  These aren't competitive events for me as much as challenging and fun endurance adventures.  Most of them are small, no more than 200 runners (LA Marathon 24,000), run by a few people, a handful of volunteers to man the infrequent aid stations, and a few more to greet you at the unpresuming finish to hand you your coaster, medal, or low-scale shirt.  But, as you can already deduce, the runs aren't about that.
I especially find it exciting when a trail race happens to be under more difficult elemental conditions, forcing the runners to pull back the curtain, exposing their own humble truth about themselves. To me, that vulnerability and ensuing suffering becomes a true self-learning experience.


  1. Nicely put. I share your sentiments about trail running


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