I’m not the runner I once was. Well, its not like I was an elite runner or anything. But my intent was the same as any other world class ultra marathoner. It was routine for me to plan 6 hour runs in the woods. I would do combined 10 hour weekends. Lots of back to back runs. I would start a run at Midnight just to get used to running in the dark. I intentionally sought out tough conditions to test myself. I’ve run sections of the most notorious 100 mile races just to know what everybody is talking about. Here are a few notable ones:
-I paced someone for 40 miles of the Western States 100 mile endurance run in California, hoping someday to get a lottery ticket to run.
-I ran the Umstead course (NC) to see how it would feel for one of my first 100 mile efforts.
-I ran the Hope’s Pass portion of the Leadville (CO) 100 mile race.
-I ran portions of the Appalachian Trail to section hike/run someday.
-I ran from the Lyon Arboretum to Manoa Falls and to the peak to feel the HURT 100 in Hawaii.
-And numerous other sections of trails.
But after some severe back pain, I had to suspend my ultra running goals. And eventually, a calf (soleus) issue sidelined me for years. I keep dabbling, like I’ll get back to mid-range trails again. I’ll never be a road runner again since I gave that up when humanity was out to get me. I’d much rather worry about snakes, mountain lions, feral pigs, and bears than deal with humans.
I’ve been dabbling again. I love that feeling when you can get lost in your environment. And since I run either barefoot or in homemade huaraches, its Earthing to the nth degree. I totally connect with nature. Its something I prefer to do alone because then I can hear everything. I can stop and admire a flower or an animal along my path. I learned to approach deer and look away so they know I’m not a threat to them. All the tracking (human or animal) methods I learned in the Army are in full force. I can tell by a puddle how long ago someone was there. I can see a broken branch or smell the odor of an animal. Its all a wonderful puzzle that’s so magical about nature.
I suppose once a runner, always a runner. But a trail runner is a whole different sort of person. Its not the person who puts on their designer clothes and fancy shoes with headphones and blinders on while treading the well kept path. Its the person who thrives in the mud with spider webs across your face. Its about having a gash of blood somewhere on your body. There isn’t anything dainty about it. These hardened souls are different. Different than a road runner who calls a slight incline a hill. I’ve been in races where you have to do some ascents on your hands grasping at ropes or branches. I’ve had to wade hip deep water through some portions of trails. I’ve had a slog through mud pits in an 8 hour race. Its a whole other breed who faces these trials on the trails.
I’ll get back there again this year. I have lots of camping planned. So there will be lots of time on the trails. Especially in the early morning when nature is just waking up. All I hear are birds singing, locusts buzzing, bluegill snapping at the waters surface, a Great Heron squawking as it launches, bullfrogs bellowing, and the soft pitter patter of my feet.