Becoming a trail runner

There are three weeks between finishing Grandma’s Marathon and the start of my next training block for the Niagara Falls International Marathon. Yep, I’m training for two full marathons in one calendar year. My friend Nate said it was totally doable for me, but I wasn’t allowed to complain about it. I sense that will become more difficult in September.

But the three weeks between training blocks has been a chance for recovery, something my legs desperately needed. The first two post-marathon runs my legs felt like cement blocks. No pain. No soreness. Just heavy. Very heavy. So heavy I was surprised I could lift them at all.

A view of Lake Ontario from Wilson-Tuscarora.

A view of Lake Ontario from Wilson-Tuscarora.

So I left the road and took the trail. I’ve done some trail running in the past. Heck, I’ve done a trail marathon. But my time on the trail is usually spent hiking not running. But something told me to go run on the trail. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that good things tend to happen when I listen to myself.

I’ve run familiar trails — at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park and the Lockport Town Trails. Nothing crazy. Nothing too hilly and nothing too long. I didn’t wear any type of GPS watch. My goal was to run at least 30 minutes. Pace and distance didn’t matter. Just run. Just enjoy.

Something different happens when I run on the trail. My concerns about pace and time and distance and goals disappear. My mind sometimes wanders, but usually it’s taking in the scenery and paying attention to the footing. Since the word “graceful” has never been used to describe me, I have to pay attention to rocks and roots. And what I notice is that when I leave the moment — when I look back or check to make sure my keys haven’t fallen out — that’s when I stumble. An ankle slightly turns. My footing is poor. My knee buckles. Nothing that causes an injury, mind you, but almost a reminder that all is OK. I can let go for these 30 minutes and just be.

Just be. Just be me. Run at my own pace in my own way among the trees and birds. A lower impact on my joints. A type of solitude even has I wish the dog-walking passers by a “good morning.”

These are the moments in which gratitude becomes natural. I am grateful for my body’s ability to get up and run through these woods. Instead of punishing it — wishing it was faster or leaner or looked different and weighed less — I thank it, for making it possible for me to do what I love.

Recovery isn’t just for my body. It’s for my mind as well.

I am a trail runner because I run on trails. It has nothing to do with racing or winning. It has to do with how I choose to define myself. And how we see ourselves is far more important than how the world sees us. Because what we tell ourselves we are, that is what we become.

The waterfall on the Town of Lockport Trail.

The waterfall on the Town of Lockport Trail.