My husband introduced me to the world of trail running.
Before we met, I was adamantly, passionately anti-running. If the zombie apocalypse hit, I would have gone down swatting at the undead with the nearest pointy object rather than try to outrun them- even if they were the stumbling, slow-moving George Romero kind of zombies. Every. Single. Step. felt like torture when I tried to run.
I had this idea in my head that real runners were like my sister, who is a talented and dedicated road and trail runner. She puts on her cute running shorts and laces up her brightly colored running shoes, and she heads out for a run nearly every day. She doesn’t stop to walk, whine, or gasp like a fish out of water when she runs. She races regularly, and while she isn’t an elite sponsored athlete, she finishes her races in a respectable amount of time. She even placed 3rd in her age group at a race that she didn’t train for.
My husband introduced me to trail running in the Pacific Northwest. His runs were dirty, ugly battles against his own demons and Mother Nature. He’d come home muddy, sweaty, bleeding, exhausted, and exhilarated. Miles were hard-won, and there were no official rules. Whether you ran, jogged, walked or crawled, if you left your house and got out on the trails that day, that was considered a win. As my husband ticked off his grueling training runs, his goals and his confidence grew. He recently completed his first 50K in British Columbia this summer.
I accompany him to all of his races, so on race days I basically divide my time between rushing from aid-station to aid-station and standing around waiting for his arrival. At each race, I’m struck by the mini-dramas playing out all around me. Everywhere I look, there are people pushing themselves to meet personal goals, and there is an amazing community of family members, friends, volunteers, and other runners who want to support them. It’s fun to watch the elite runners whiz by, but the racers who fascinate me the most are at the back of the pack. They slog through pain, exhaustion, bad weather, and self-doubt for hours and hours before they cross the finish line. As I cheer for each of them as they pass, I wonder about their stories. What drives them? What inspired them to get out there in the first place? How do they keep going mile after mile after mile?
As I’ve come to understand and admire the trail running community, I’ve become addicted to Ultra Runner Podcast, Mountain Outpost, Diz Runs, and books like Born to Run and Eat & Run. As the sport is growing, there are only so many stories that these guys can tell, so I’m still left wondering what is going on at the back of the pack at most races. I’m starting this blog to try to tell more of those stories, and to applaud the courage, strength, and perseverance of every runner who DFL’s instead of DNF-ing*.
(*For any non-runners that’s Dead Fucking Last and Did Not Finish, and yes, runners use them as verbs.)