Why do you run on trails? And what do you think about when you’re running? Two questions I frequently get asked, so let me try and answer them…
It’s been a long day working, but now it’s over, it’s my time and that means time to hit the trails. As soon as my studs hit the ground my mind immediately clears of any worries and stress, and I’m not actually thinking about anything. This is pure and simple freedom, the world is literally at my feet, they can take me wherever I want and at whatever speed I choose. After easing into the run I feel the need for a challenge so I push on and race to the first hill top, my focus switches to how I’m running; drive your arms, push off hard, head up, and stay relaxed. All triggers that help me get from A to B as quickly as possible.
As I continue to climb my legs are screaming at me to stop, but I’m not going too. The exertions of the effort starting to take their toll, but I’m not stopping, not until I reach my goal. It may seem strange but I actually enjoy the pain of pushing through your perceived physical limits and the feeling of doing so is hugely satisfying. So rather than bemoaning the discomfort, I feed off it, focus beyond it (with the triggers above & the end goal) and know if your mind is willing, your body can give so much.
“I imagine how many people will never get to experience this unique mix of intense physical exertion to reach your destination and the sublime calmness on arrival.”
Despite the pain that’s gradually taking over my body, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I’m in a beautiful place both literally and metaphorically. Surrounded by natural beauty, the air is clean and fresh and the only company I have is the odd animal whom seem to accept my presence without any issue, I’m part of their world. Running on trails provides a unique flow whereby running feels totally natural, skipping from step to step fully connected with the ground and in total control of what I am doing. The physical pain is hidden within the flow; I push on.
A steely determination to achieve my goal and the intrigue as to what is over the hill pulls me up the final few meters to the summit and then as I crest the brow I have to stop. The view is jaw dropping, as if the whole world has been spread out in front me. I may have been here many times before, but every time the beauty amazes me. I’m completely alone and the silence is extraordinary. Stopping for a moment to absorb the contrast from the hustle and bustle of daily life, I imagine how many people will never get to experience this unique mix of intense physical exertion to reach your destination and the sublime calmness on arrival. I actually feel sorry for them.
“Before I know it I’m flying downwards, the trail is tricky; twisting and turning, loose underfoot but again I feel in complete control.”
I could stay in this haven for much longer, but the competitor in me is burning to get going; how fast can I get to the summit across the valley? Before I know it I’m flying downwards, the trail is tricky; twisting and turning, loose underfoot but again I feel in complete control. I’m not really thinking about what I’m doing. Today running is natural. The world is whizzing by, the breeze makes it feel like I’m going faster and faster, bounding from rock to rock, splashing through streams and simply enjoying natures’ natural playground a childish grin spreads across my face, this is why I run!
“Trail running means I can explore, change my plans and do exactly what I want to do with very few restrictions, I feel a million miles away from civilization but it’s actually just over the hill.”
Hitting the valley floor I have a choice….left, right or straight on? My original plan was to race straight up the other side, but I’ve never been to the right and the unknown is pulling me there. So right it is and with it a change of focus, I’m much more attentive to where I’m going, my senses heightened by the interesting new stimuli. My pace slows deliberately so I can absorb this mini adventure. Now rather than my motivation being to push my body physically, it is the excitement of discovering new trails that drives me on. Trail running means I can explore, change my plans and do exactly what I want to do with very few restrictions, I feel a million miles away from civilization but it’s actually just over the hill. Trail running is escapism either to places of beauty or to an immersion into yourself to see how far or how fast you can go. This is why I run.
With daylight failing it’s time to head home. Back on well known trails my mind refocuses on what I need to do when I’ve finished but now I have a new clarity to my thinking. Things that seemed insurmountable just a few hours earlier are suddenly minor problems with an easy solution. I frequently come up with some of my best ideas when I’m out running and with reinvigorated energy I’m now ready to tackle the rest of evening.
So why do I run? There aren’t many things in life that give you so many different physical and emotional feelings that a run can. The simplicity of the sport and the huge range of trails within easy distance of most of us, mean there really is no excuse for not getting out and experiencing them yourselves. And what do I think about when I run? Everything and nothing!