This morning I joined 36 other runners for Nashville Running Company’s Tour of Trails and confirmed a new addiction. Under blue sky and over frozen earth, we gathered at Bowie Park to explore. It was our first journey together, and . . . we won.
The 6 mile loop is challenging, but fair. Roots and rocks keep you honest, dicey climbs test your will, and calm flats let you escape.
Like most trails, it was as hard as you wanted to make it but pace groups stayed together and enjoyed the frost-covered scenery at a comfortable pace. Conversation was there if you wanted, or unchained if you preferred to hear yourself think.
In the past I have proclaimed that I am “not a runner” which makes it even harder to explain why I’m falling in love with trail running, but it must have something to do with these factors:
– The cushion of the earth and crunchy leaves are undeniably more pleasant than pavement.
– Trail running forces you to pay attention which is a welcome change from the Zombie-land of road running.
– I feel a greater sense of peace when I’m surrounded by nature and every corner offers a surprise.
Trail Running Customs
Because this is a training group, we have guides to lead the way and answer questions. Phil ran alongside me most of the loop and I’m sure he sensed my inquiries building.
I’ve always been curious about the running tradition of warning others what’s ahead. On the road it’s typically things like, “Car up! Car back! or Curb!” And yes, they all come with exclamation points.
Often this practice gets way out of hand and the entire gaggle of runners crow the first thought on their mind while pointing wildly in the direction of a potential hazard.
“Stray cat! Beer can! Snicker’s Bar!”
As it turns out, trail running has a few customs of its own, but when the entire path is decorated with rocks, stumps, and gravel patches, incessant warnings would drive you to the loony bin. Yet the danger is real. I saw one face plant and many others come close.
Phil told me he warns of upcoming hazards occasionally, like if he runs through a tree branch that has potential to snap back and scar the next runner or if there happens to be a well disguised cliff on the horizon, but for the most part it’s every man and woman for themselves.
He also strongly believes in courtesy telegraphs for poisonous snakes, quick sand, or wild boar. Unless of course, it is a race, then all bets are off.
The Power of a Group
The common theme this morning was that most who ran in the frigid conditions believe they would not have shown up on their own. Me included.
If it weren’t for positive people and group training I doubt I would have started running in the first place, and never in a million years finished an Ironman.
While I haven’t put my finger on why, there is something about trail running that feels more evolved. Treacherous paths are a great equalizer and there’s an unspoken bond that seems to say, “Sure, we can run as fast as we want, but nature always wins.”
I’ve played team sports all my life and there is something about endurance that makes it easier to pull for your competition. Trail running takes this to a new level and, even though we completed our run, I sensed a universal desire to decode our sensations by talking about the trail, our dreams, or life.
That thought consumed me for the 45 minute drive home. How can I make that feeling last? Running further is obvious, but for the first time I’ve started craving a running vacation. A group of people, a rented cabin, and an endless canvas of trails. Seems like great practice for living in the moment.
New on Crushing Iron
Stephen McNeal, one of our training leaders and recent 100 mile finisher, spoke about the difference between road and trail shoes before we took off. I will post the video soon and we plan to continue this as a series of trail training tips for the next 10 weeks. They will be available both here and on the Nashville Running Company’s website.
And speaking of Nashville Running Company, you may have noticed their ad in the Crushing Iron sidebar. We’ve created a little content sharing partnership and I’m pretty pumped. NRC is where I started running and it’s a great store with even better people. They have anything you need to get going with trail running along with what may be the best running-store-pint-night in America. Make sure to tell them you saw their ad on Crushing Iron.
They have blogged about me, too.