I might be unfriended by several of my best running friends by posting this one and maybe even Salty herself, but I’m going to just come out and say it:
I am a trail running atheist.
Don’t get me wrong. I love nature; natural beauty inspires me and makes me feel wonderfully insignificant, yet totally a part of something bigger than myself.
But trails? They just don’t do it for me.
And I like running in nature. I consider my Sunday run church. I meditate on the run, feel thankful and alive while I run, and do a lot of self-evaluation, plan change in my life, forgive myself. . . all as a result of surrounding myself with natural beauty and taking the sacrament via a big dose of my own endorphins. I plan my runs specifically with a pretty route in mind, however, they are always on paved logging roads, country roads, and the meandering miles of bike paths that I am lucky enough to have quick access to.
It’s not the dirt either. I love getting dirty. I don’t mind smelling or having actual dirt and salt encrusting my body for days on a backpacking trip.
I gave trail-running a good, honest try. One of my favorite running ladies preaches the Gospel of Trails, and she made it so compelling that I actually raced three trail 50k’s in a year. I used up hours of my Saturdays to drive into the mountains to do 20-26 mile training runs on the McKenzie River Trail. Oh, the glorious scenery!
Before running on them, I’d hiked those trails. When my friend suggested we train on them, I imagined blissing out on waterfalls and old growth forests with floors of lava rock. I loved hiking, I loved running. Surely combining two of my favorite things would lead me to some serious salvation. Well. No.
When I run on trails I don’t even notice much of the nature going by because I am instead staring down feeling like I’m doing calculus to figure out where to plant my feet so I don’t fall flat on my face. Sort of like how I feel when I do yoga (grrrrrrrr). Or when I’ve tried snowboarding (my friends found me at noon drinking Jagermeister in the lodge).
The second I stop doing Calculus to look at the beauty around me … SPLAT. Down I go, onto a trail littered with and surrounded by cheese-grater rocks. I wandered around those summers in my sundresses with scabby knees encrusted with dirt ground into them. I even took pictures to document it.
Then there is the intimidation factor of the trail runners themselves, who I’ve come to call the Bad Ass Trail Gospel Runners. They all seem so wiry and tan, the men with huge Moses beards and everyone with veiny muscles. I swear they are part Prophet or mountain goat and have gone to some spiritual plane that requires less oxygen.
I will admit here that I am a wimp, overly self-conscious at times, and I can be clumsy, so being scared of falling and feeling embarrassed in front of all the Bad Ass Trail Gospel Runners makes me go SLOW. And here’s the real reason I hate trails. Going slow is embarrassing to me because I like going fast.
It’s a vicious cycle:
I am a wimp –> I go slow so I don’t fall so I won’t be embarrassed –> I go so slow that I am embarrassed.
And I fall anyway. Sigh.
There are some less technical trails that I’ve run on with my Bad Ass Trail Runner friends and I adored running on them. In that case, though, they were at elevation and I think I was so oxygen deprived from being over 10,000 feet that when we saw the second bear, we took off so fast my brain confused terror and elation.
Currently my running routine also requires pushing a jogging stroller about half my miles each week so I can throw that in as another excuse for my trail atheism. Admittedly, it is a poor one because I would figure out how to get in my trail miles if that was a priority.
To my friends who preach the Gospel of Trails: I am sorry, it’s not you or the trails. It’s me, the trails atheist. Trust me that I am really a good person love nature as much as you but I need to commune with it in a different way. I wish we could worship together because I really think you are awesome bad ass chicks. Please don’t excommunicate me because I find my nature-running bliss combo on the roads and bike paths rather than on a path.
I tried so hard, but could not be converted. Back to the pavement I go.
Anyone out there a trails atheist too? If you are a die-hard trail lover, what am I missing?