I’ve been a runner for over 22 years. You could say it defines me. I’ve raced everything from the 100 yard dash to the marathon to the 100 mile mountain ultra-marathon, but I’m still learning. I’m still discovering new ways to enjoy the sport that I love.
I started trail running less than a year ago after moving from Ohio, in order to experience the awesome natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and give my legs a break from the roads. What I found on the trails awakened something within me that has made me a better runner and a happier person. My legs got a break from the roads by running on a softer surface but quickly became stronger from improvement of my stabilizing muscles. My core strength improved. I learned to be a more efficient hill runner and reaped the rewards of amazing views upon reaching the summit.
Every trail run begins by closing my eyes and taking a deep breath. As I fill my lungs with the clean air, I take in the smell of the trees and the damp earth. I am thankful for the opportunity to experience this and escape from the urban jungle that is dominated by cars and ruled by traffic lights. I know I will be slower than on the roads, but I take pride in what my strong body is able to accomplish. Knowing that I will encounter the unknown on the trail invigorates me. I seek an encounter where I am one with the trail and once again feel like a kid running through the woods.
The new friends I’ve made on the trail are an invaluable part of the experience. Trail runners are laid-back, flexible, passionate and giving by nature, yet have a heightened resolve that drives them to the finish line. They are more accepting of newcomers than any group I’ve ever met, and share tips and advice whenever prompted. I’m always struck by the desire which everyone shows in being there, living the moment and forgetting their cares for a while. We are ourselves here and it’s a glorious thing.
Trail running showed me what I’m really made of. Although humbling at times, the feeling you get from pushing your pre-conceived limits is empowering. The joy and freedom I feel on the trail bestows an invigorating energy that carries me through life. I feel more alive than ever before and I know the best is yet to come. Trail running has made me a better person, a happier person, a more alive person. Try it. It will do the same for you. And if you already love trails, count your blessings.