In 2016 I was running often – sometimes over 20 km at a go and was prepared for a half marathon. And then, after returning from a visit to India and a break from running while there, I never quite managed to get back to it. The biggest problem were shin splints – shin pain that got worse the more I ran. Nothing I could do helped it so I took some time off. I was really disappointed and tried a couple of times to restart with no luck.
Running is different for me than cycling. I was reluctant to start running, thinking I hated it. After all, running in phys-ed class in high school was an ordeal. I was out of breath, sweaty, and miserable. And worst of all I was last, behind everyone. It was a great way to make me feel even less like I fit in. But when a friend challenged her friends to join her in running a 5K I decided to give it a shot. And so I trained for it and when I ran the race I was surprised to finish squarely in the middle – far from last at all. So while I like cycling a great deal, cycling feels like transportation. It’s something that gets me from point A to point B in a way I can interact better with people and the environment. Yes, sometimes it is 1,000 km between point A and B but it just feels like movement. But running? Running makes me feel like I am really accomplishing something. If nothing else, every time I have a good run I am patting that little 12 year old boy in gym class on the back. “It’s OK, you can actually do this!” And of course all of the wonderful neurochemicals that exercise delivers come out on a run.
After talking with more experienced runners I learned a few things about form. One friend also suggested I try trail running. Instead of running on hard pavement I could run on dirt trails. And so it was that I went out today – a sunny 18 degree day and headed in to the ravine next to where we live.
Trail running here is more challenging than running on the roads. The roads are flat but our trails go down in to the ravine then back up, there are switchbacks and narrow bridges for mountain bikes. One of the big changes, though, was the absence of music. Normally while running I listen to loud music with a beat that matches my cadence. It keeps me motivated and on pace. But on the trails, it is not safe. There are many mountain bikers using the trails as well. I need to be able to hear them coming behind me. They are extremely courteous, announcing their presence, saying “excuse me”, letting me know others are coming along with them, but if I were obliviously running in the middle of the trail and not moving, I would be a very frustrating person to share a trail with.
But what a lovely surprise! Once I was down in the ravine, the traffic noise disappeared. Instead I heard my feet hitting the clay path, the occasional cyclist and most often the sound of singing birds. It was lovely.
And there’s another bonus. On a day like today, instead of running alongside traffic, here’s where I ran:
My distance was short – only about 3 km – but I am really hopeful I can continue to feel good doing this and spend more time enjoying views like this as I run.