Into The Woods: Henry David Thoreau would have made an excellent trail runner"Just feel the flow of the trail." -- Kurt Decker, trail runner extraordinaire
Photo by Bigstockphoto.com
So, I spent some time amid the trees the other night. In the elusive sun and shadows, where turns beckon to exciting unknowns and quad-grinding grades turn to little-kid hurtling downhills in the blink of an eye. Where that large log across the trail causes you to contemplate, for a split second, whether you
still have enough of your old 400-meter hurdle skills left in you to jump straight over it, where a rickety bridge feels joyful rather than perilous, where a few bug bites are an easy price to pay for 50 mano-a-mano minutes with Mother Nature at her midsummer finest.
Yes, I went trail running (trail racing, no less), and so should we all. If, as Herman Melville says at the start of Moby Dick, you feel a "damp, drizzly November in [your] soul," if the relentless sidewalk pounding has beaten up your knees, if the task-masterly monotony of the treadmill has driven you raving bonkers, then off the asphalt and onto the dirt you go, vite!
But I'll trip, you say. I'll get lost. It's not even ground. It's not marked. I'll never get back. Ah, but you will. As the no-doubt trail running members of Semisonic once proclaimed, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.." Trails can be daunting, they can be unmarked, and yes, you may lose your footing. But these are all solvable qualms, and the rewards are multiplicitous and worthy.
First of all, find yourself some trail-loving friends. They're easy to spot. They're chill, they're friendly, they have dirt on their calves, passion in their eyes, and tales of 20-hour 100-milers over rock and desert up their sleeves. Most important, they love what they do, and they're thrilled to help you love it, too. Join a group trail run (you can source them through local running stores or online boards), and proudly proclaim your newness. In the vernacular of the trail world, people tend to speak in hours (or loops) rather than miles, so if the majority of the group is doing, say, three 8-mile loops, you can jump in for one or two and no one will think less of you. (Trail running groups are, like the best 1960s communes, free-floating, accepting, and tolerant.)