Trail running is my passion. I love the sense of adventure it brings. There is nothing better than building up a mental map of trails in my local area, region, state and country of Australia. Over the years trail running has also given me the opportunity to travel the world. I know how lucky I am to have being able to build mental maps of trail running routes in Japan, New Zealand and Europe.
I firmly believe the key to remaining invigorated is to keep pushing trail running boundaries. Keep expanding your maps, follow all the trails that branch off from your favourite route, and be open to new events and races when the opportunities arise. Such adventure and discovery will not only reinvigorate; it will ease the pressure of training and provide the perfect remedy for post-race fatigue.
I often think back to my first real self-discovery event, the TNF100 Australia. It was like a physical awakening. I set out training on my own with a course map in my hand. I got lost countless times on the spaghetti trails of Katoomba. I followed the trails along ridgelines, swerved snakes, sped down heart-pumping descents and negotiated ladders. It was the furthest I had ever been from a major town all on my own. I was on a quest. But then is this not how humans developed? We are meant to be adventurers, so embrace it.
That initial quest was a relatively small loop of 50km. I’ve raced 100-milers since but I still remember just how massive that first step was for me. Even at that stage, I was challenging myself. And nothing has changed, really. I’ve completed that same TNF 100 five times and watched it evolve into a high-profile ultra race but for me trail running is still about discovery, about seeking new trails, climbs, beaches, valleys, rivers, lakes, gorges and mountains. It’s what pushes me on.
Discovering, or sometimes avoiding, wildlife is always a treat when trail running. It might be a gliding eagle, bounding kangaroo, grazing deer, recoiling brown snake or lazy carpet python. Trail running gives us more opportunities to see what others miss out on.
That willingness to travel and desire to build new mental trail running maps means I’m not only switching up the landscape but at the same time constantly adapting. The changes in temperature force my body to deal with discomfort. I’ve learnt to control my breathing asthma and how to power-up my output of CO2. This wouldn’t have happened had I not pushed my limits.
I run to discover but also to push out any negative thoughts in my mind. Running with happiness in my heart and enjoying every step is a positive affirmation to myself. This is the grounding of getting through depression. Then there’s resilience, something all trail runners practice on every climb or long run. To be resilient, both mentally and physically, is crucial. Forging the ability to bounce back from adversity helps us when we get any kind of smack in the face.
My most recent quest was to the heart of Australia to compete in a four-day multi stage event called Run Larapinta. It was based in Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory. I’d traveled to this iconic mountain range 14 years earlier and always said that one day I would return. It didn’t disappoint. The Australian outback is like nowhere else on earth. The dirt is red, in dramatic contrast against the blue skies. It really is a magical world through which to run trails.
Day one was a 19km night run under the diamond carpet desert sky. Then came a morning 39km, followed by stages of 30km and 45km. It was the first time I had competed in a multi-stage event like this. For me, it was another trail running adventure. Yes it filled me with fear but at the same time it thrilled and excited. I can’t wait for my next trail running adventure…