Being prone to random explosions of batshit craziness has its perks. I end up doing things that I would never, ever, ever consider otherwise. I head about this trail run that was happening in 1 weeks time. I had been vaguely thinking about starting to do some trail training but I would need to drive to get to them so laziness won out and I had just kept running on the road.
I saw the Nerang trail run come up and it was local (only two hours away), how could I resist? Now I could have done the 9km or the 17km option, but I picked the 25km one. Couldn’t just pick the 9km or 17km like ANY NORMAL PERSON who has never run even a teensy bit of trail before in her entire life.
But it was just 25 kilometres. How hard could it possibly be? And I had trail shoes that I had never worn, because before we run – we shop, right? So how hard was it?
Well, running 25 kilometres of relatively steep trail with no experience is stupid. On the road, I am used to essentially not having to worry about my feet. They do what they do and I can look around and basically tune out. Not the case on the trail. It’s slippery, there are rocks everywhere and roots so you actually have to pay attention to what your feet are doing the whole time. Paying attention to your feet for four hours is really mentally challenging.
I did have a couple of things in my favour. One is that after all of the road training that I have done, I did have the physical fitness to finish the course. And the other thing was that I have done a 5 hour run before.I hit that wall at about the 3 hour mark and really felt like I couldn’t keep going and was thinking Taz was so right. Why didn’t I do the 17km course. WHY?! But I’d done it before, I knew the wall was temporary and magically a couple more kilometres in I had my energy again.
I think the approach is important too. I knew I wasn’t going to be setting any records for speed, so I intentionally was relaxed about my pace. I stopped for photos and occasionally my GPS to make sure I wasn’t lost. And although I knew that I was going roughly twice as slow as any other runner on that course, I was ok with that.
Towards the beginning when I was facing my first steep descent thinking there is no way I could do this, I stopped to take a picture and have a chat to some Operation Move people. As I was doing that, a couple of runners came past. It was clear that although the man was experienced on trail, his girlfriend was a road runner and like me had no idea how to get down the hill. At that point he said to her a few times ‘just trust your shoes’ and gave me an apologetic smile like I knew what the hell I was doing. Flattering, but completely misguided. I took that advice for the next 20kms. Just trust your shoes.
Aside from the technicalities, I’ve spent a bit of time trying to find the right words for the run. It was incredible and not just because of the beauty of the forest around you – a pleasant change from the highway with passing trucks honking at you.
I saw a lot of people in groups or couples doing the trail run, but there was something really invigorating about being completely on my own in the middle of nowhere. Having the challenge of having to pick my own path through the rocks and roots and heading downhill in a way that was somewhere between running and falling.
I’ve always loved the feeling of freedom on a run, but being on this run I felt like that feeling was just a diluted version of what it could really feel like. Any run will improve your body and mind, but this one really uplifted my spirit. It reminded me of being a kid, before all the responsibilities of life make you forget who you are. Remembering is something I should do more often. But next time, I will train for it.