Trail Running 101

One of the things that I love about running is it has taught me to be more open-minded and try new things.  Running on trails is one of them. 

When I first started running – life before marriage and kids – I was living in downtown Toronto.  When I wanted to run, I headed outdoors into the concrete jungle as parks (forget about trails) were too hard to get to.  So I got use to running on sidewalks and, if I was up before 5:00, on the streets of the big city.

During life after marriage and one son, we moved into suburbia.  I fell in love with our neighbourhood because of the green space that surrounded it.  Roads were quiet, sidewalks were empty and there were lots of trails.  The community called to the runner in me. 

Ironically, though, once we had moved, I hesitated to run through any of the trail system and would use any excuse to avoid it:
a) I only have 45 minutes and, if I go into the trails, I’ll get lost and that will make me late.
b) I don’t know how far I’m running.  If I stick to the roads, I can measure it (life before Garmin).
c) I’m female.  It’s dangerous for me to be on the trails alone.
And so on. 

Over the years, though, in my life with boys (Skipper and Little Ironman), I found myself wandering into the system for fun.  One of my fondest memories is playing “The Wizard of Oz” and we would hide from the “Lions, and tigers, and bears. Oh my!” which is really just a variation of Hide ‘n Seek.  In the picture above, taken last summer, LI and I were climbing one of the long hills at Sixteen Mile Creek.   The boys also love to ride their bikes through the trails surrounding our home.

The other big factor in building my comfort with the trails is the workouts that we do through the summer.  Because they are so much cooler, we often head into Sixteen Mile Creek for our tempo runs and interval workouts up and down the hills.  At first, I cringed when I heard that we were heading into the trails.  “Yeah!” cried my running partners.  “Really?” I would think.  “You would rather run on the trails that the roads?  Ugh!”  But I played the game and went with them.  I despised the workouts because they were so much tougher than the ones on the roads.  And I always felt lost because nature changed its look from one week to the next; I realized later that this was one of the beauty of trails.  It should be no surprise that, as my runs became better and I got lost less frequently, my fondness for trails grew.

A few weeks ago, I headed into Sixteen Mile Creek for an “easy” run and had hardly gone down the first hill when I got upset: the Town had paved the three hills.   From what I understand, they have been difficult to maintain, especially during the past year after the December storm, meaning it made more financial sense to pave the three paths.  So what use to be an escape to nature is still an escape – but the black asphalt gives it a completely different flavour.

I was surprised that I felt so emotional about this; I felt as if my own space had been invaded.  Then I laughed at myself as I remembered how I use to avoid the trails a decade ago.   Running does not just keep me young physically, but it keeps my mind young as it has helped me to open up and try new things; trail running is one of them.

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