I started trail running in June of 2013 when my wife and I moved to southern Virginia. I left behind a town that I loved (Des Moines, Iowa), a job that I loved, and many friends whom I loved. The saving grace behind this move was that our new town had 25 miles of mountain bike single track course! I made learning how to trail run my main objective (behind finding a job, renting a nice house, and meeting nice people…you know all that boring adult crap).
Up until that point, I had known trails only through hiking; the lone time I had run on one was to escape sudden death at the end of a 17 mile hike through the mountains of Colorado. I had researched the benefits of trail running and had read Born to Run (the book that apparently every ultrarunner everywhere has read…for good reason. The book kicks major ass!) and the idea of trail running very much intrigued me.
A few days after settling into Virginia I tied up my shoes and headed out to Angler’s Park our local mountain bike course.
These first few attempts at trail running taught me a crazy amount of lessons (both life lessons and ones more skill specific) Here are a few (of many) life lessons I learned during my first week of trail running:
Be ok with sucking at something new.
In our society so much emphasis is placed on being awesome that people are forgetting rule number one- beginners are not instantly experts and will have to learn through failure. In the past, I would catch myself avoiding new situations because I know I will look silly. This bizarre fear kept me from pursuing many pursuing many hobbies and caused me to miss the boat on some amazing life experiences.
This is a crazy fear…OF COURSE YOU ARE GOING TO LOOK SILLY!! YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IN THE HECK YOU ARE DOING!!
To overcome this fear I had to mentally remind myself that it is natural to feel uncomfortable when you step outside of your comfort zone. Failing at something is the beginning of the learning process (or as my teacher friends call it First Attempt In Learning).
The best part about trail running? You don’t even have to worry about this fear! Chances are no one is going to see you except some squirrels and deer! You will stumble, run into trees, cuss loudly at rocks you have stepped on, and, if you’re like me, fall flat on your face over five separate tree roots (You learn quickly to pick your feet up!)
Your first run will be disastrous. Embrace the struggle and learn from it! That being said, I think trail running is a skill you can develop rather quickly.
Take the headphones out
As you are starting off you need to be completely in tune with your body. You need to know where you are placing your feet, how you are running up or down a hill, and the locations of all the trail obstacles you need to avoid (rocks, the aforementioned tree roots, copperheads, spider webs, etc). You need to be completely in the present moment as you run down the trail otherwise you will possibly seriously hurt yourself.
During my second trail run I began focusing on some situation I was worrying about more than the actual trail. My mind wandered for less than ten seconds and I was rewarded with a face full of thorns as I tripped into the bushes.
IPods will just distract you during this initial learning stage. You are discovering so many new techniques and skills during this time that you need to eliminate as many distractions as possible.
Also you get to listen to nature and isn’t that one of the reasons you wanted to get into trail running in the first place?
To be continued….