Trail running has been on my “to do” list for a while now.
But I was full of excuses. I don’t have the right shoes, where will I go, what if I get lost, what if I fall and no one finds my body for two weeks, what if it’s really hard, what if it’s more like hiking instead of running, what if I have to go to the bathroom, etc.
When I stumbled upon Messiah College’s The Big Dipper, a four-mile trail race, I knew this was my chance. There would be a marked course, other people and it was marketed toward beginner trail runners. Sold. I talked my long-suffering significant other into coming with me, rounded up a few friends, and last Saturday evening, we arrived at Messiah College, not sure what to expect.
The crowd of about 100 or so runners lined up on the grassy field. With a whistle blow, we were off, and Tim and I settled into a comfortable pace. We followed flags and caution tape as the route had many turns off the bat, and continued to do so for the remainder of the run, but that was part of the fun. I never knew where the next direction may take us. The first mile or so was mostly on grass or packed gravel. “See? I told you this was going to be more like a cross country course instead of a trail run,” Tim remarked to me.
Oh, but he was so wrong.
We were soon in a heavily-wooded area, climbing over logs, branches and rocks. Our sub-eight minute mile pace had most likely climbed into the teens, as this part of the run turned more into a brisk hike. As I cautiously and quickly navigated up and down inclines and declines, careful not to twist an ankle or take a tumble, I suddenly realized how much fun I was having.
Instead of staring at a watch and watching my pace, I was mostly clueless (Tim had his Garmin), and concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. I had no idea how fast or how slow we were running. We were just running in the woods on a Saturday evening without a care in the world. “This. This is awesome.”
In my extremely limited experience, trail running was a whole new ballgame. Your focus is entirely on where your feet are going. Sometimes it is more efficient to drop to a hike rather than attempt to run. And as someone who always as an iPod on when running, I couldn’t imagine taking my Eminem-filled playlist onto a trail. The calmness of the woods was part of the appeal.
The middle two miles were mostly in the woods, and as we moved back out of the trees, we picked up the pace. “This is so much fun. I am having the best day ever. Can we do this every Saturday?” I asked.
Sadly, the answer was no.
As we continued down the packed gravel path, we made a right turn under a covered bridge, and we were onto grass. One more huge hill led us to the finish line, and like the kind and considerate person I am, I sprinted the last few steps to “beat” Tim.
Afterwards, participants were invited to take a dip into the Yellow Breeches. While I was all about that originally, I put one foot in, screamed at the freezing temperatures, and walked away.
It was a fantastic start into trail running and I can’t wait to continue.