Try Something New
Originally published in October 2015.
First, let me be honest; for most of my life I hated running. In middle school I dreaded the slogs around the track and the slow laps where I would get winded and wish I was back in the classroom. As a result, I gravitated to athletic pursuits that allowed me to compete against myself or with a small team, from martial arts as a kid to rowing in high school.
Then, about a month ago, I decided that it was about time I gave this whole trail running thing a try. I don’t run very far, and I don’t run very fast, but I am learning to love the challenge of a steep hill and the exhilaration of navigating roots, rocks, and trees as I move through the forest.
The road to this new endeavor began last spring and summer when I trained to climb Mount Rainier. To get ready for the climb I explored new and old hikes with my faithful Gregory pack and gallons of water to train my body to carry a heavy load. After reaching the top of that amazing mountain, my subsequent pack-less day hikes felt easy, and for the first time my body felt like it might actually want to run (or at least jog along and try not to fall over).
The final motivation to finally get out and give it a try came from spending a few days hanging around Mount Rainier with an ultra runner. His excitement and love for running in the mountains was infectious, and he believed that that everyone can run if they just try. His passion for running and kind words of encouragement (while I plodded along and watched in awe at how gracefully he moved on the trail) were the final inspirations I needed. Now, when I am slogging up hills or picking my way down a slope at a mach-chicken pace, I hold his belief that anyone can run in my mind like a mantra, motivating me to keep going.
And that brings me to now, where I am slowly venturing onto the trails. I went on my first “real” trail run (and my designation here is completely arbitrary, meaning I think I spent most of my time jogging instead of hiking quickly) at the end of September, and have been slowly increasing the distance I run and the trails I explore. I am leaning to push myself up the hills, to appreciate the feeling of my legs and lungs working, to listen to my body as it tries to fall into new rhythms of movement, and to recognize that every step will make me stronger and allow me to discover new places.
Trail running, and running in general, is something that for a long time I did not believe I could do. And while I consistently get winded going up any hill and do not run very far, I am excited to explore a new way of moving, of engaging with nature, and of challenging myself.