Can I now call myself a trail runner?

navogational art
Self Portrait. © Colleen Yorke, 2015. All rights reserved.
In an age of uncertainty, of iPhones and Droids, running in the woods is one thing we can count on.  Running on trails, surrounded by nature and sounds of birds chirping and leaves rustling from the wind, allows us to return to ourselves. We focus on twigs cracking under our feet, our breathing and heartbeats, while our thoughts float away. 

Trail running, so the saying goes, reduces injuries of overuse, strengthens core muscles, and gives us a rush that road running just cannot give us. Soaking in the essence of the forest results in an endorphin release, which is very different from breathing in roadside fumes.  However, we may also experience that the trails soft, ever-varying surface causes us to fall flat on our face, because we did not have the right shoes, we miss the tip of a buried rock, or we simply got distracted by a rattle snake. 

Yesterday I fell down twice, picking up dirt, coarse sand and an impressively full-body array of cuts and bruises.  Falling is humiliating and gratifying at the same time.  Falling down flat on our face teaches us something.  It stretches us.  We don’t have to fear it anymore. It has happened and we are living it. And it is not as bad as we thought. We’re still alive. So maybe since falling on our face didn’t kill us, we might go ahead and try something else we’ve been considering but have been too afraid to try. It took trail running to make me feel like a runner.

Here is what we need to know to hit the trails safely and discover this wildly soothing side of running: First, get a pair of trail running shoes.  They offer a stronger, protective sole and a better grip than most road shoes. Second, consider investing in a few items such as mosquito repellent, sun block, chapstick, a camelback to stay hydrated and protect the skin from getting snagged.   And finally, keep our eyes on the trail in front of us.  Wild animals do live here.

Meet you at the trail head?!