training for trail running

The Trail to your Goal - A matter of Perspective

The Trail to Your Goal – A Matter of Perspective

By Tammy Roen

I remember my introduction to trail running and how I made that first leap from pavement to the feel of the earth… the actual earth… beneath my feet.  In my time running, racing and chasing my goals, I’ve had the good fortune to meet many great fellow runners along the trail, so often offering kind and encouraging words to me as they went by.  As I think of the many faces I’ve come to recognize on the trails and at events, and how so many have shared their own goals and dreams with me, I can’t help but note the diversity and the commonalities among runners.  Oh, certainly there are differences in gender, age and other obvious factors, but I’m actually referring to the diversity of motivation and what gets each of us out of bed at 0500 to light up the trail even before the sun does.  For some, it’s all about that desire to compete… to test one’s metal against a field of worthy competitors and ultimately stand on the podium.  For others, it’s simply the satisfaction of completing a course… perhaps checking another box on that bucket list of trails to be run, or improving on a previous time.  For all, it’s a time not just of personal accomplishment, but of enjoying the beauty of nature and accepting the challenges it can present.  I am no exceptional runner!  In fact, if I am ever called an “elite,” it will most certainly be followed by the sound of my alarm, waking me from my dream so I can begin my daily run.  Most events find me in the middle to the back of the pack, depending on my recent training.  Yet, over the years I’ve come to embrace some special joys that can be found there.  Not feeling any time pressure, it’s not unheard of for me to simply stroll along for a bit and become a “Trail Angel” for others who are perhaps at a low point and may really need one.

I was once asked by a friend if I ever placed in races.  I told them that I always placed… sometimes 52nd, but everyone who finishes places somewhere!  For me, I think it would be more accurate to describe my “place” in a run from the perspective of what I was able to impart to others and what I was able to take from the day.  I’ve admittedly lost the trail at times, but I’ve never lost heart.  I will always stand in awe of those runners who lead the pack and tame the trails like I may never quite be able to, but if I can stop along the trail and offer assistance to someone who is cramping, sick, or sitting on the side of the trail wanting to stop, there is a special type of good feeling I will take away from helping them out… and perhaps even a new friendship.  Sometimes, all that’s needed are a few words of encouragement to persuade them to just walk with me to the next aid station and reassess things there.  In fact, that may be all it takes for them to find the motivation to finish their race.  I love sharing the knowledge that I’ve gained over the years regarding heat training, nutrition, gear opinions, or how to recover or prevent some injuries as we continue along the trail together.   A shared journey is always an opportunity to trade information about other courses, upcoming races, or the benefits of volunteering with an organization such as TROT, which is a fairly recent endeavor for me, but one I have thoroughly enjoyed.  It gives me great pleasure to cheer people on throughout the race via high fives, kind or motivating words or just telling them “Come on let’s do the next mile together!”  Perhaps I’ve found my calling out there while sweating and trotting along toward the back of the pack.  For all of you who run the trails, I would simply say this – whether you are just starting out, or whether you are nipping at the heels of that elite level you’ve worked so hard to achieve, always take time for a little introspection!  You just may find that the trail to your goal is lined with the dreams of many… and they are absolutely amazing!