From Indoorsman to Trail Runner

It’s official — I’m hooked on trail running.

And I can’t say I saw this one coming.  I’ve long considered myself an indoorsman; even as a kid I preferred to stay home and read a book than go out on a hike.  To this day, hiking sounds miserable to me.  When I’m camping and everyone decides to go for a hike, I’m the guy who stays back to “hold down the fort,” indoorsman code for “get disgustingly drunk and throw things in the fire.”

But this week I went on two trail runs with a group of ultra-runners, and I already can’t wait to do it again.  And considering I just got back a few hours ago from the most recent one, an 11-miler, this is saying something.

Never before in my life have I ever looked forward to running, except maybe on race days.  Running, to me, has always been about the getting the big goal and little else.  Marathon training has been many wonderful things for me, but one thing it has never been is fun.

But trail running is different.  It’s a completely distinct sport from road running, more different than I had imagined.  I started to suspect this when I got an email from the group reminding me “bring your headlamp” to the first run.  So I got myself one of those; sexy huh?

[matt headlamp]

My suspicion was confirmed when, ten minutes into said run, I loyally followed the eight runners in front of me directly through a stream, plunging both feet directly into the water.  Funny, I thought, lesser things than a soaked foot used to be reason enough for me to immediately abort a long run and go home.

When I used to talk about the possibility of one day doing a 50-miler, it was always “Yeah, but they’re on trails, so you have to pick up your feet to step over roots and stuff.”  I’m almost embarrassed at how naive that was.  Every step is on some sort of rock, hill, side slope, mud, root, water, wet leaves, etc.  Or at the very least, it’s carefully aimed to avoid one of these things.  And when it’s completely dark and you’re running in a bouncing ten-foot orb of light from your headlamp, it’s even harder to see it all coming.

And somehow, trail running has me in a place I haven’t been in a long time.  That place where you can only think about one thing, and counting the hours until you get a chance to do it again.

It doesn’t hurt that the people I’ve met are awesome.  They’ve almost all run ultras before, and they’ve been extremely helpful and welcoming to this trail virgin.  (For the first time, I’m even a little ashamed of the “26.2” sticker on my car.)  The “drinking group with a running problem” joke is hackneyed by now, but based on what I’ve seen so far, my guess is that ultra runners were the inspiration for it.  Which is just fine by me, because after one of these runs, nothing sounds better than a couple cold ones.

Vega Sport Giveaway Winner

[vega sport prize photo]Ok, it’s time to pick a winner for the tub of Vega Sport!  By the way, I drank it before and during my trail run this morning with great results.  I only wish they had given me more to sample, because when this tub is gone I have a feeling I’m going to be forking over some dinero to buy more.

Ok, so here we go.  I’m using the “true random number” generator at <


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  1. Congrats Maria!

  2. Very cool- Trail running sounds like a blast. Glad you’ve found a new adventure. Congrats to the winner.
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Weekend & Pizza =-.

  3. Don’t be surprised at all…trail running is way better than road running. The ultra crowd and the trail crowd (often but not alwasy the same folks) are also much different than the shorter distance road racing crowd. It’s a much different vibe at a race or a run.

    If you don’t mind me dropping a few links (just delete the comment or edit this out if so) I always send these two articles to new trail runners:
    Trail Running 101
    Trail Running for Road Runners

    The first article is a writeup of my notes from a trail presentation put on at a local shoe store here in Maine by the race director of 4 of the trail races here in New England and another guy from our trail club, both of whom have run multiple 100 milers since then.

    The second article is just a quick list of tips of things to watch out for as a new trail runner.

    Most likely you’ll pick all those tips up from running with the crowd you are with; they’re introducing you right. The Trail Monsters (the club I run with) meets every week and runs rain or shine, snow or heat wave (although lightning will usually cause us to cut a run short.) During the Summer we have to wade through a brook that’s usually thigh to waist deep and lately has been too deep to be able to jump over.

    Have fun, enjoy the trails, and looking forward to hearing further updates as you learn how much better trail running is for you than road running.

    (One last tip: Given the time of year – check your local hunting laws. Deer season started yesterday here in Maine so in about a week 90% of the trails I run on won’t be safe for me to run on for the next month during most of the week.)
    .-= Blaine Moore´s last blog ..Be Careful During Hunting Season =-.

  4. wow! That sounds like a lot of fun. I’d like to get my mileage up so I could do that some day!

  5. I’ve hit a local trail a couple times for my longer runs. Last one was a 10 mile run. Granted, this trail was very well groomed and really flat, but I still loved it. Will likely be going back again soon for another one. I may eventually have to try some of the more hilly trails around here. Glad you enjoyed it though. I’ve been told trail running is addicting.

  6. Nice head lamp. I so prefer running in nature and on trails more than road running. Even when I do flats I am on the side of the road jumping over the logs instead of running on the pavement. Did you do the run in your Vibrams? How is the breaking your feet in going?

    • Hethir, no I haven’t run on the trails with the Vibrams yet. But I am getting used to them, and starting to slightly increase my mileage. But if I step on a rock or something, it really hurts because there isn’t much cushioning. Rocks and roots are all over the trail of course, so I need to toughen my feet up before I do that. But I will one day!

  7. Wow, sounds like fun. I really want to try trail running. I get bored on the road most of the time. Trail running sounds like a ton of fun!
    .-= Whitney @ Lettuce Love´s last blog ..Apple, Almond, and Lobster =-.

  8. how great!!! i would love to find a group of trail runners-after reading born to run i really want to learn more about barefoot and trail running! ultra athletes seem so awesome! can’t wait to hear about more of your adventures!
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..Bare Fruit =-.

  9. i have always wanted to try trail running, but there is really nothing around here in WI to satisfy that. something about being out in nature is totally RELAXING!
    .-= Holly´s last blog ..A Foodie-ful Weekend =-.

  10. Any event that includes instructions to bring a headlamp rocks!!

    Glad you had fun and found a new direction for your running.

    Adventures in Tri-ing
    .-= Courtney´s last blog ..Adventures in Job Hunting =-.

  11. I am so happy to hear you’ve converted. I am a trail runner as well. I almost NEVER run road races!! 🙂

    Its really the best. There’s nothing quite like pounding the dirt on a beautiful, hilly trail. 🙂
    .-= Jamie Walker´s last blog ..Sconetastic! =-.

  12. I never run inside. I find it too boring. But running outside is wonderful! Definitely prefer it 🙂
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..Interview with a Raw Food Vegan =-.

  13. Congrats to Maria!

    Matt – glad you found a new love. I have always been a trail person but that may have something to do with my background. I have a degree in recreational use of forest lands. 🙂
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..Dreams are Possible =-.

  14. Hi Matt, nice to meet you! I just found you via True/Slant. I too recently discovered trail running. What a change from the road. I just registered for a 20K trail run in Rochester to put my new love to the test. I’m also dying to read that book, Born to Run. Saw the author on the Daily Show a while back and he seemed intriguing. I’m a food blogger too, and though I’m a “responsible omnivore,” do post lots of vegan recipes.

    Take care!

    • Hi Jen! True/Slant is going to be great I think… haven’t mentioned it here yet but I will soon. Born to Run was awesome; it’s pretty much the reason that I finally took the step to get started with trail running and almost-barefooting. I’ll check out your blog; hope to get to know you more and follow your training!