Friday, February 24, 2012

In love with trail running

I’m in love. With trail running.

I’ve walked on trails, hiked on trails, skied on trails, rode horses and mountain bikes on trails, but I’ve never run on trails.

Because, usually, I run alone. And this is not something I feel safe to do on trails.

But today, with my husband and my dog, I set out for a 3-mile trail run, my first real trail run, and it was glorious.

The damp, misty day lent a surreal feel to the forest, muting sights and sounds and casting an eerie, low-lying fog on the lake, but without my iPod or the distraction of cars rushing by, I took in the subtle noises around me; the trickle of a stream, the call of a bird, my dog splashing at the water’s edge.

(This is what my trail looked like, minus the leaves)

I felt alive; free. A blur of movement in the still of the forest. The slightly sodden earth gracefully absorbed each footfall in a way that the unforgiving asphalt and concrete surfaces cannot.

Instead of exhaust fumes and blacktop, I inhaled the scent of damp leaves and pine.

Though my pace was slower on the trail as I navigated the occasional tree roots and rocks, my mind was stimulated, my body exhilarated. I felt the way toddlers must feel when they peel off their pjs before a bath and have the sudden urge to run with abandon, naked and uninhibited, through the house; it’s a feeling of unbridled joy.

When I’d reached my three-mile goal, I wanted to keep going. I was not tired, but invigorated, and my body felt rejuvenated instead of beat up the way it usually feels after pounding out the miles on pavement.

I felt completely thrilled by the experience and also completely cheated; this is what I’ve been missing. There is a whole different world of running out there, one with trails that wind through the trees and beside streams and lakes; one that coexists with the deer and squirrels and chipmunks that bound through the forest; one that offers peace and tranquility and a sense of freedom and well-being; one that is mere steps from my front door and yet, I don’t truly have the freedom to enjoy it at will. It’s the realization and understanding that the world, with all that is good and kind, is also a world that is dangerous, unfair and unforgiving.

Before today, I looked upon the pages of Runner’s World, drooling over the pictures of the desolate and magnificent Rave Runs, and could only imagine how inspiring and inviting it would be to run in places like that. But now I know. And now I will long for my next trail run and will cherish each opportunity to run among the trees and imagine that the world is as open and peaceful and beautiful as the trail that winds innocently through the forest.

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