“So, I just go down the street for two miles, and I’ll really just bump into a trailhead?” I asked my trail runner hubby, Bryce.
“Yeah, you can’t miss it. Take the trail all the way down to a parking lot. It’ll wind around, have some good rollers and go down hill for a bit. Then, turn around and run it all the way back.” He answered excitedly.
This little route was repeated THIS MANY times in 2013. I loved this route – 2 miles on the road and 2 miles on this little trail called Birdsong. This repetition and experience from just a few short years ago planted the seed that has grown into what it is today.
Bryce had been trying to get me to switch up my road running routine to incorporating trails for a few years. I had just had my second baby, trying to work off the baby weight, was a 37 years young and needed a change from road running.
Running is something that has always been a part of my routine. I ran (and played other sports) in high school and dabbled with basketball in college. I always used running as outlet for stress and for exercise. Bryce and I even ran a 5K on our wedding day and it’s a big part of our marriage and relationship.
You are either reading this thinking about how you got started trail running or you are thinking about getting out there and giving it a whirl. I asked a few of my local trail sisters about the most challenging thing with getting started on the trails and how they overcame the issue.
I was a devoted road runner. We all know you NEVER stop running when you are on the roads! Taking a walk break wasn’t allowed. I guess I had to overcome the walking/hiking, which is now my most favorite part of trail running. I thought I was messing up if I wasn’t running up all the hills and tough parts, but I learned it’s ok to slow on those parts and actually look around and enjoy the views! I love my mountain trails!
I would say starting over from scratch being pregnant was the hardest thing. I had the most active pregnancy, but I couldn’t run after 18 weeks without pain. So, after I gave birth I could not wait to get into the mountains. I started by carrying my baby on hikes, building up my climbing strength. When I started to run without him, I was so frustrated. I’m was slow, and couldn’t breathe. I cried once, and turned that frustration into determination. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I feel more confident and stronger than before I had a baby.
For me the hardest thing to overcome was my own ego! Coming from only road running the only thing you focus on is pace, or I did a lot of the time. So, I remember thinking when I first went on a trail run “what if I’m too slow, what will my pace be, and what if, god forbid, I have to walk?!?!” Well, I learned quickly that these things all adjust to the trail and who freaking cares if you walk! Now, I set small goals for myself on the trails and when I’m alone I work on those. For example, making it to a certain spot without stopping, working on downhill pace without twisting an ankle on a rock or doing more runs with vert so my legs get stronger. I no longer have that ego of competition with others or worry about pace. I just want to feel stronger and not like I’m dying on the trails.
For me, I think the hardest thing about getting started on the trails was dealing with the unknown. Would I get lost? What about wild animals? Aren’t there hobos that live on Shoreline trails? I’m naturally skeptical and a bit over-analytical. These were deep questions connected to root feelings of just avoiding doing anything much more than the little two miles of trails that were so fun for me. I liked my “happy place’ and enjoyed keeping things simple. However, my love for running drew me out further and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Turns out that I would get lost, but would always be okay. The wild animals are very content in their elements and just occasionally make sounds to say “hi”. I can definitely run faster than a hobo.
I also learned that beginning a new sport, competing and changing my mindset at a later age has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. But, why trail running? What is it about trail running that changed my mindset about the possibilities of running?
As a road runner, I could only run so many miles a day or week without “feeling it’. Trails have softer surfaces and varied terrain which allows for more freedom and variety of movement. I’ve been able to do so much more over the last few years that I would have ever imagined possible.
Learning anything new is always awkward, but the solitude of trail running let that awkwardness be just between me and the trail. The trail has brought a magical sense of exploration and a spiritual sense of connection that I had no idea I was missing or even needing in my life.
My suggestions for getting going are pretty simple:
- Pick a close trail
- Start slow
- Be content with your fitness level, whatever it might be
- Track your progress
- Find some Trail Sisters
- Take pictures
- Remind yourself how much you love running
There you have it. Get out there. Go explore! Whether you run, hike, backpack or nature walk – find a trail and get started. You will never regret a day you spend roaming around on the dirt ribbons. The sooner you get started the more fun you will have. And, as always, tag #trailsisters and let us know how it’s going.