TRAIL RUNNING 101
Take a deep breath. Breathe in through your nose and down to your diaphragm, filling your lungs with air. Then slowly let out your breath through your mouth while closing your eyes and contemplating your favorite outdoor memory. Think about the way the sun felt on your skin, the smell of the air; fresh and free. The feeling of being connected to the earth with a weightless body. Really though, take just a minute to contemplate or meditate on these thoughts.
Trail Running is what dreams are made of, right?
Okay, that page break definitely assured that you did the above exercise and you can now continue reading, right? If you’re like me you pictured a warm summer morning with an orange sun rising over the Rocky Mountain peaks. I see mountain goats picking their way over a rocky ledge while the swift sound of my breath is juxtaposed with the slower cadence of my stride on a trail 11,000 feet up. This is when time is forgotten and the concerns and uncertainties of life disappear. THIS is what my dreams are made of.
Many people have activities that provide the same therapeutic rejuvenation from the hustle and bustle of life. For me, that activity is trail running. It’s what tugs me out of bed at 4am. If you’ve never experienced the thrill and tranquility of trail running, let’s chat for a few minutes. Even if you have, read along and see if your experience is similar to mine.
Why would you want to trail run?
In my opinion the better question is, “Why would you ever NOT want to trail run?” I have always been a lover of the outdoors and I spent summers tanning my skin under the blistering Sacramento Valley sun. I explored the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range on foot, mountain bike and canoe. I ran my first 5k with my mom in fifth-grade, beating her by only a couple of minutes. To this day, I’m not sure if I actually beat her or if she let me beat her. Either way, it was good for my juvenile heart.
Years later, after moving to Salt Lake City, my love of hiking began to conflict with my school schedule. It was hard to fit a hike in between classes. I began to run the downhill sections of the trails so I could cover more ground and still get outdoors. It just seemed natural. I would hike the uphills, then bomb the downhills in hiking shoes, hiking shorts and a daypack. Before long I traded out my hiking attire for running attire and have yet to look back. Whatever your reason for considering trail running is, you should do it.
Take the plunge!
Like yoga, a spiritual practice, you know that it takes patience to become good. The more often you are able to push yourself physically while trail running, the more likely you will find that feeling of vibrance and alertness in the same moment.
It’s never too late to start
No matter your stage of life you can start running. Maybe you’ve never run a step in your life. Start slow hiking the trails nearest your home. Maybe you’re a seasoned road runner or even a marathoner who has never dabbled in trail running. Try the trail! It will bring a new point of view to your life. If you do it often, eventually you will look back and see how every run has become connected in a chain of runs to bring a bit more peace and joy to your life.
Now think back to those first few moments of meditation at the beginning of this post. How did you feel? Peaceful and full of life? Trail running is all about the culmination of those feelings with tired legs and worn out lungs. Finding the flow where calmness and mindfulness meet doesn’t happen every run for me, but the more I run, the more I reach this place. My body moves freely and quickly, almost as though I am floating over the trail. It’s that feeling where you can sense everything, yet feel nothing. This flow is achieved through the combination of the peacefulness of the outdoors, the physical exertion of exercise and the pattern of getting out there. Moments like this are a large part of why I trail run.
– Munk Pack Explorer, @landonfaulkner_