A Trail Runner’s Manifesto…

Ironically enough, I write this on a Friday morning as I’m home sick from work. So, yeah…

I loathe the term “ultrarunner”, especially when applying it to myself. In fact, I’ve never called myself an ultrarunner and (politely) correct those that use the term towards me.

I prefer “long trail runner” and here’s why: I won’t run an ultra not on trails. I prefer trails so overwhelmingly to asphalt/concrete/tarmac that I felt the need to express this in words.

Races like Badwater hold absolutely no appeal for me. 135 miles on a road? No thanks. Even the first 19 miles of the American River 50 are done on pavement. I think there’s about 10 miles or so of the JFK 50 on roads. That’s just too many miles on a surface I do not like to run on.

6, 12 and 24-hour races done on tracks or paved loops are also out of the question- that just seems like torture to me. I have a great deal of respect for those disciplined to do these races, but I’m not into that at all.

Yes, these are ultramarathons and in doing these races you’re an ultrarunner, there’s no question there. I’m not saying it isn’t legit, I’m writing this declaration to draw the line for myself.

I’m also not saying “forever”, this is for the “right now”. Right now I won’t be signing up for any of these races. I’ve heard runners say once they had babies and spent hours training pushing a stroller (or “pram” depending on where you’re from) they got used to roads, but I’m still not used to roads. I don’t know if I ever will be.

I remember back in April, after the tragedy at the Boston Marathon how I felt about possibly running that race and being swept up in the gung-ho “can’t stop us runners!” vibe that permeated the sport (and still does). After about a month and 2 or 3 long training runs on roads I reconsidered (I think my re-thinking of that goal was the impetus for this here blog post) and had to get completely honest with myself that I do not like running on roads. Keeping the same gait with the same pace on the same terrain as I mindlessly tick off the miles past houses and buildings to me is the most boring thing possible.

Two days before the Boston Marathon I ran the Lake Sonoma 50 and probably should’ve DNF’d. That race and that course absolutely destroyed me, I never wanted to drop out so badly like I did  that day. But I persevered and came through at almost twelve-and-a-half hours. Ouch.

I also think the other attractive thing about trail running is the accessibility of elite athletes- I’ve gotten Twitter responses from both Dylan Bowman and Mike Wardian, gotten comment call backs from Timothy Olson on his blog, etc. There’s a much closer connection between the stars of this sport and us middle-of-the-pack people. I wonder if Ryan Hall or Galen Rupp are that accessible?

Anyway, this is not meant in any way to disrespect or discredit road-runners and the sport itself; some of my best friends are road racers and I have supreme respect for what they do. I probably couldn’t run a sub-3:00 marathon (and don’t have a desire to) the same way they don’t want to run a 50-miler. And let’s face it; the mental toughness required to withstand the monotony of asphalt is equal to (if not harder than) going out for a 25-mile training run on trails.

Just give me some varied terrain with plenty of animal noises, mud, creek crossings, roots, rocks, etc. and I’m all set.

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One Response to A Trail Runner’s Manifesto…

  1. kate says:

    I feel the same way. I much rather run on trails than any other surface, but unfortunately for me I don’t always have the time to get to a trail to get a run in. On those days, I’m forced to hit the pavement if I want to get a run in at all. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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