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This is yet another incarnation of my personal blog. Here's where you can read about what I do when I'm not at work: hiking, seeing plays and other shows, eating, traveling, etc.

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Lessons on the trail

Posted by gck Saturday, January 19, 2019 0 comments

It was Saturday morning and I was running a short trail race. I wasn’t racing it; I’d signed up for it months earlier, and now I was on a 50k training plan that would have me running an extra 6 miles after the race, so I was taking it pretty easy. I happily bumped into a friend whom I hadn’t seen for a year, and we decided to run together at a leisurely pace, chatting a lot and catching up on things.

The trail was rougher than I remembered. Most of it was single track, and there were rocks and slippery roots everywhere. As an added challenge to this obstacle course, somehow the timing worked out this year that the fastest half marathon runners (who started earlier in the morning) were hitting the start of the loop at the same time as we started, which meant we were getting passed by quite a lot of speedy runners throughout the course, often in locations that weren’t really meant for passing. Because of all this, we were passing other runners very conservatively, only if they were significantly slower or if we were in a section of trail that was wider.

So my friend and I are running, chatting away about Orangetheory or something similarly harmless, when the runner in front of us, whom we’ve probably been following for a little while, steps aside to let us pass, so we do. But right before I get out of earshot, she says, “I’m out here to enjoy nature, not to listen to your chatter.”

Uh, what?

She didn’t say it in a particularly nasty tone of voice, but to me, the words themselves were pretty bitchy. I asked my friend if she thought the woman was being rude or not, and my friend didn’t think so.

But through the race and even after it was over, it kept nagging at me. I am no newbie to trail annoyances, but when someone chooses to make a remark like that, to me, she’s telling me that I’m doing something wrong. Was I supposed to run slower if I was going to talk, so she would be further ahead? Or run faster and pass everyone I got close to so they wouldn’t be subjected to the sound of my voice for very long? Or not talk at all while I was running? I don’t think so. Who was she to dictate how I was to run my run?

Then I started thinking about how SHE was in the wrong. If she was so annoyed, she could have run faster to get away from us. It’s not like we were running that fast. Or just stepped aside as soon as she heard chatter behind her, if she didn’t want to listen to it. Orrrrrr maybe she could not sign up for a race with hundreds of people in it if she didn’t want to hear any people! Oooh, the righteous outrage!

Then the devil’s advocate side of my brain was like, “So you get to dictate how she is to run her run?” Yeah, okay. Maybe not.

I think with trail running, you have to learn to accept what you get. It’s not always going to be that smooth, inspiring, meditative communion with nature that the shoe ads show you. There might be a mud puddle that you don’t manage to quite jump over. There might be a rock that appears out of nowhere, just in the right place for you to kick really hard. There might be trees down over the trail. You might roll your ankle or get stabbed in the shin by a hidden branch. The trail might morph so that it seems like all of it is going uphill. But you learn to adapt, to get stronger, and to love the experience that you are given at that moment. And I guess that includes moments where another runner is snarking about your chatter.

So thank you, runner lady, for unintentionally reminding me about what trail running really is. You run your way, I’ll run mine, and hopefully we’ll both adapt and keep enjoying the trails.