Lesson One: Trail Running teaches you to be present
The other day I was running along on my favorite trail at a local wilderness park, a trail that I’ve probably run 50 times. It was a gorgeous early autumn day, perfect for running, no bugs, sunlight filtering through the trees. I was running steadily up a slight incline through some glowing newly yellowed maple trees, and after the terrain leveled out, I started speeding up to fly over the flat section. And all of a sudden I found myself on the ground, leg bleeding, wrist throbbing, cursing myself for tripping over a root. I had been thinking about work, stewing about some issue that needed my attention. I was a million miles away until suddenly I wasn’t. Up until tripping over that root, I wasn’t present to what was going on right in front of my face, and the trail caught me.
Be Present, or something will force you to be eventually.
Lesson Two: Trail Running teaches you to be humble
Tripping over roots and falling on your face? Very humbling. And so is the day when you figure out that no matter how hard you try to beat the trail, the trail will always win. And then you’ll figure out that it actually isn’t a competition, and that the trail wants you to succeed. And then you’ll figure out that you and the trail are actually not separate, and then things get really interesting. Once I was running along a river next to some sandstone cliffs and stopped to take a little water break, leaning one hand onto the cool rock next to the trail. It was vibrating, almost humming under my hand. Sounds new-agey right? But it’s true. I could feel the energy of the earth in that rock, and once you feel that, you can’t unfeel it.
Be humble, because there’s always something astonishing to find out when you spend time with the natural world and really take time to feel it.
Lesson Three: Trail Running teaches you to trust yourself
So, even though we know that the trail will usually win in a fight, when we can surrender to the flow of what’s happening, we can learn to trust that flow. We can learn to trust that we are part of this incredible planet, not just a person who uses the earth as a resource to stay alive. When first learning to run downhill on a trail, I would stop my momentum and pick my way down over whatever obstacles were in the way. This lead to several months of very sore quads and knees. And then someone reminded me to stop looking at my feet (unless absolutely necessary on very technical or rocky areas) and look a few feet ahead to where I wanted my foot to land. I learned to trust that I could get my feet where they needed to be to support me on the way down.
Give yourself a little credit, and trust that you’ll land where you need to, at least most of the time.
These are simply a few of the lessons that trail running has taught me over the years, and I’m sure there are more lessons yet to be learned.
What has trail running taught you? Tell us in the comments below!