If you’ve just started out hiking you may be thinking, “Why run when I can walk?” Admittedly, I was in your camp not long ago. Until I started to lose that loving feeling for road running. All the groups I joined left me in the dust or met at totally unacceptable hours (6:30 a.m. on a Saturday? GTFO).
Sure, trail running has better views than your typical run around the block, but that’s honestly been more of a tertiary (always looking for an excuse to use that word) benefit for me. Trail running’s inclusive, no (wo)man left behind mentality (or at least more so than road running) had me hooked right away.
There’s this weird shame in road running around walking. If you’re going for a run around your neighborhood, it’s weird if you walk parts of it. You’re just expected to run the entire way. If you go out with a group, it can help you push harder, but mostly I just felt like a loser for not being able to keep up with the crowd.
Enter Golden Trail Runners. My boyfriend and I went to REI to “just look” at trail running shoes thinking we could give it a go on our own. The guy working in the shoe department that evening happened to be the organizer of aforementioned Golden Trail Runners and was REALLY selling it and hoping to get us to join in.
I did my usual spiel of, “I run pretty slow. Like REALLY slow. Like probably wayyyy to slow for this group,” but Matt was undeterred. I really like going to REI and didn’t want to make future visits awkward, plus he seemed really nice, so I caved and looked them up on Meetup.
Quick side note – if you want cheap running shoes, go to REI around January or February when all of the previous year’s models are on clearance. We (unsurprisingly) left REI with more than just a Meetup recommendation and got last year’s Brooks Cascadias for around $60.
We met in the parking lot of Green Mountain for our first run, and Matt explained the point was to have fun, not run fast. I still had immediate flashbacks to my failed road running groups as he and the other fast guy took off. My boyfriend gamely jogged with me and there was one other girl I could at least keep in my sights, but I started to resign myself to the fact that this group actually was like every other running group I’d tried out.
But then we rounded the corner and saw the trail intersection ahead. There was Matt and the fast guy, waiting for us to catch up. And not like “ugh wish this slow girl would hurry the eff up” kind of waiting. Like they genuinely wanted to do nothing more than hang out and wait for us to get there. They cheered me up hilly sections, high fived me at each stopping point, and chatted away as if it wasn’t rapidly getting dark and cold.
If anyone walked? No big deal, then you’re just hiking. Like it could not be less of a big deal, which was really exciting for me. I felt like there were so many more things I could do because walking was magically an option again. Instead of feeling like a failure or out of shape, I was motivated to keep going and just take this quick break. I covered eight effing miles that first night. I have never run more than four!
Your focus is shifted while trail running in a way that road running isn’t – and I’m not just talking about looking where you’re going to make sure you don’t faceplant. You’re just out there to have fun, and running becomes an adventure instead of a chore. With each run, I’m less worried about miles and times and how much longer I have to go. Instead, I’m just enjoying the moment.
Which is a totally hippy dippy thing I thought I would never say. ESPECIALLY about running.