Training for a long race? Looking to vary your workout? I highly recommend a trail run. You’ll never appreciate flat ground as much as you will after finishing with a trail.
Last weekend, my hubby (Jon) was set to go on a trail run. He loves to run the trails, but trails weren’t something I’d ever tried. I’d been on many long hikes with him, but never a run.
He asked if I wanted to come along, and I agreed. I wanted to get off the treadmill and enjoy the weather, and I honestly didn’t think it would be that hard. As the day went on, I started my normal long-run procrastinating. I did the dishes, vacuumed, and started laundry.
“Are you sure you want to come along?” he kept asking me.
“I’m sure,” I answered. I really didn’t see what all the fuss was about.
He asked a few more times, and I finally quipped, “I’m sure! It’s not like we’re climbing Everest or anything!” Correct statement, wrong mentality. It was clear that I didn’t know what I was saying.
We live in Metro Boston, about 12 miles outside of the city. On the way into Boston, there is a reservation off the highway called the “Middlesex Fells Reservation.” It is fondly referred to as “the Fellsway,” and is a hidden gem. It’s great to have access to trails without having to drive all the way to New Hampshire. This is where Jon had mapped out our run.
Driving over, the once vibrant sunlight was giving way to clouds. Perfect. Overcast and glum, the mood was a good precusor of just how difficult this run would be. At least I got to try my new running jacket, right?
We parked the Jeep, got ready, and jogged to the trailhead. Ideally, we would be running along the “Skyline” trail. I say “ideally” because it didn’t quite workout that way.
We started our run. I realized very quickly that we wouldn’t be going for time. Jon kept reminding me of that, but it frustrated me. I was used to working on my pace, and going so slow felt lazy to me. However, every time I tried to go fast, I would trip on a rock or a root…only to get more frustrated.
Maybe this wasn’t my thing.
After a slow mile, I asked Jon, “Are we getting a good workout?” It’s funny because, in hindsight, I was so out of breath when I asked him this that I could barely form a sentence. “Are you out of breath?” he asked me. I had my answer.
We kept going, and the dodging of puddles and roots kept my mind occupied. I was going to make this my thing. I run, I’m a runner, and this was just another run.
Around mile 3, my optimism was faded and my feet were killing me. I had kicked more rocks than I care to remember. It’s funny because the expression, “Kick rocks,” means “Get lost.” Right around the time I realized I was literally kicking rocks, we got lost.
When running or hiking trails, it is important to keep an eye out for the next blaze. It’s typically a strip of paint on a tree, or a pile of rocks, and it tells you which way to go. White blazes marker the Skyline trail. We hadn’t seen a white blaze in about 5 minutes…which is a long time.
To put it in perspective, we weren’t in the middle of the White Mountains. It wasn’t like we were in danger of spending the night out there. It was a nature preserve, and I could hear the highway in the distance. I was just concerned because my legs were telling me that they didn’t want to run any farther than we’d planned!
After turning around a few times, we found a trail. It wasn’t our trail, but it was a trail. We knew that the green blazes would eventually lead us to the white blazes. We were happy about that.
After about 4 miles, we made it to the top. The view from the top of the trail was awesome. It felt like we were far away from home, but Boston loomed in the distance. The sky was coated with patches of dark clouds, with bright sun peaking through the gaps. It was beautiful. As it is with everything difficult in life, the view from the top made it worth the climb.
The last 3 miles were the tough. It was getting harder to pick up my feet as far as I needed to. The terrain was the rockiest, and I eventually fell on a giant rock.
I fall a lot while running, so no surprise there. I take pride in my running injuries, I wear them as badges of honor. The bruise on my forearm made for awesome conversation at work on Monday.
My first trail run is one I think I’ll always remember. It pushed me harder than I was used to, and taught me not to care so much about speed. It worked my leg muscles in ways I am still feeling a week later. It toughened me up for the marathon. It had me begging for flat ground. It taught me not to take the treadmill for granted.
Call me crazy, but looking back…I can’t wait to go again!
(I apologize for the grainy photos…I only had my iPhone.)