Do yourself a favor today and expand your world…
Take a visit to the website for the American Trail Running Association.
Perhaps you’re a trail runner and did not even know it?
WRAR recently spoke with Nancy Hobbs, Executive Director of the association. She popped up on my LinkedIn feed and we connected. That was almost like meeting up with another runner at the junction of two trails in the digital wilderness.
We all know that algorithms these days rule our lives to some extent. But that seems to be one of the driving forces behind becoming a trail runner.
Get off the beaten path and choose a path that beats day to day running hands down.
Nancy Hobbs became a trail runner many years ago, during the early 80s to be exact. She now lives in Colorado Springs, which is quite a place for trail running if you did not know. Pretty much anywhere you go in Colorado is a decent place for trail running. Or any of the mountain states for that matter. But you don’t have to be in exotic locations to enjoy running on trails.
“It’s a great choice to run on trails because you can get away from traffic and cars and roads,” she notes.
If that seems basic, then it might help to understand that trails for running were not an automatic assumption 30 years ago. Movements like Rails-To-Trails have converted thousands of miles of former railroad bed into great running environments. The running trail movement has at the same time reached far into the hills and woods and along rivers to create exciting opportunities to run where the scenery tends to be interesting and the running is challenging.
So how is trail running defined today? “It’s different depending on where you are in the world,” Hobbs explains. “That perspective describes the fact that trail running truly is an international pursuit. There are organizations that lead trail running and destination trips. There are thousands of races and events in which to participate. “Some are competitive,” she observes. “Some are not. It all depends on what you want out of the sport.”
The recent White River 50 Mile Trail Run in Greenwater, Washington sounds rather interesting. Plenty of climbing and all in a location where the scenery is beautiful and the trails are challenging.
The opportunities are endless. But everyone starts somewhere. “We find people that are starting from scratch,” Nancy Hobbs observes. “They’re ready for something different. We recommend that they find an experienced trail runner if they’re going to take on something challenging in the mountains. It helps to learn a few things about what to wear, your shoes and how to hydrate.”
“Most people start out with groomed trails,” she notes. “And shorter events if they’re looking for competition and such.”
Thanks to the many tendrils of social media linked to the American Trail Running Association (there are nearly 8000 Fans on their Facebook Page and 3000 followers on their Twitter account) it doesn’t take long to become immersed in how trail running works, or how to connect.
But it doesn’t always take a national association to embark in search of great running trail finds. A triathlete friend discovered a wonderful trail system in Middleton, Wisconsin that winds through the Pheasant Branch Conservancy, a preserve that includes prairie restoration, sweeping vistas of oak woodlands and a boardwalk through deep oak forests. My friend discovered these trails while training for the Ironman Wisconsin a few summers ago. It is now a tradition to spend a weekend swimming in Monona Lake, biking the triathlon course and running in the relaxed atmosphere of beautiful Wisconsin countryside.
Even nearer to home, our local triathlon club uses Herrick Lake in the Winfield area of suburban Chicago for Saturday Run Club. The five mile main loop is crushed limestone. It
also connects to trails in other adjacent preserves and the broader system of bicycling trails now connecting multiple counties in the greater Chicago area. In winter the trails at Herrick are groomed for both inline and skate skiing. It’s an interesting relationship to have with a set of trails in winter, spring, summer and fall.
That’s what trail running is all about, connecting back with nature and using running to do it. The thrill of completing an event where you are challenged to negotiate the environment as much as you are in competition with other runners is a great way to go when you’re exploring the next step in your running career.
Coming up: How to go off-road on your bike as well!