Firstly…happy third birthday, gorgeous boy.
For AGES now, I’ve been talking about trying trail running. I live about half an hour from some of the most amazing forested trails I’ve ever seen and hiked, it’s prime trail-running land round here. But I’ve never actually done it. Primarily due to my cautious nature – the idea of running alone in a forest doesn’t sound safe at all, and I don’t have any local running buddies who have been able to come with me…and the thought of getting the Husband to come (and thus I have to push the Dude around) is not attractive. So I’ve not gone trail running. I have purchased some spectacular trail running shoes, I have devoured Aron and Jojo’s trail running blogs, I have signed up for a 10k trail race…but my delicate, suburban feet have yet to hit a dirt path.
On Saturday, I accumulated enough brownie points to be able to easily persuade the Husband that he wanted to come with me and the Dude to Huddart Park and to play with the Dude for an hour so I could run. So we did just that. We drove there, parked up, the Dude ran onto the grass shrieking in joy…and I said goodbye to my boys and literally plunged into the forests.
It. Was. Amazing.
I loved it. I know Huddart Park relatively well, well enough to have a sense of direction and to know some of the loops we have hiked in the past, so I started with the trails I knew. The ground was soft and damp and covered in brightly coloured leaves. The air was crisp and clean. It was just me, my feet and the trails and I loved it instantly. When you’re a Mum, you very rarely get time on your own, so the solitude was precious. I couldn’t remember the last time I was in a wood on my own. Ten years ago, maybe, in London, so hardly on my own anyway. But suddenly it was just me, with my new running passion, in the redwoods and I loved it. I felt like Katniss as I ran through the forest. (Ridiculous, I know).
I was struck by the differences between road and trails. Apart from the obvious things (softer surfaces, trees, no cars) it’s things like having to watch carefully where to put your feet – avoiding rocks, roots, slippy mud. I gave up very quickly on monitoring my time…I kept having to tread carefully on downhills, stop to climb over logs, pause to read trail signage. Another difference is the temperature difference between the clearings and the wooded trails. I was chilly, then I was hot, then I was chilly. My first mile or so was downhill so I effortlessly cruised along, feeling SO happy. My Nike Plus app suddenly, loudly, informed me that I’d run one mile and I seriously leapt out of my skin. The silence, apart from my breathing, was beautiful. Then I stumbled on yesterday’s twisted ankle and it hurt, and it struck me how far from the Husband I was and how alone I was. So I tried running gently and quickly it stopped hurting and I was able to run carefully, but I was very conscious of protecting my weak ankle.
After a mile or so (mainly downhill) it was obviously time for the uphill. I started up a little single-track trail (see, I know all the terminology). I’ve hiked the uphill trail – the Dude has hiked it. But running it was so hard – I had to pause once to catch my breath! So I learned another lesson – about how the trails humble you, remind you you’re not as fit as you think you are. I got back to the playground to find my boys, seriously out of breath but grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
Having checked in , I set off again for another mile or so. I took a new trail to me, and had obviously learned to pace myself better because although it was uphill, I wasn’t too breathless. It was beautiful. It struck me how safe I felt – I’m by nature risk averse, but I felt very safe here. Every now and again I would see people, which made me feel safer, and no-one looked dodgy. In fact the other two runners I saw were both single women, which comforted me. And knowing that the Husband wasn’t that far away was also reassuring, whether rightly so or not. However my map wasn’t the best. I got to a clearing in the woods, checked my map and knew I wasn’t confident which way to go, so I took Jojo’s advice about doing out-and-backs for safety’s sake, and set off back the way I came. I finished with a relatively flat half mile and felt like I was playing – like I was out on a rowing boat on a lake and just playing around until it was time for me to go back in. It was so much fun.
I got back to the boys absolutely buzzing, and we drove off for a late lunch at Alice’s, my favourite local restaurant that I suddenly realised I hadn’t mentioned in my recent ode to California. That’s now rectified.
Nike Plus told me I’d run 4 miles. I don’t have much confidence in that, the trees may well have meant lost satellites at some points, but it feels roughly right. I don’t know my pace but I know it was much slower than my road pace…but whatever. Not fussed.
So…Trail Run Number One. Utterly brilliant. Totally hooked. No idea when I’ll be able to go again but so SO in love with it!!