Yesterday I ran off-road for the first time in many months, at a small but unique park near my house that is one of the last surviving remnants of Texas blackland prairie – grasslands that once stretched for hundreds of miles. It’s teeming with wildflowers and crisscrossed with singletrack dirt trails, a real urban oasis, and seemed a convenient way back into trail running. If I want to run trail half marathons, I’m going to have to train off-road, so I pulled on an old pair of Vibram KSO “barefoot shoes” and set out on the trail.
The first few steps were awkward and a bit wary, but soon I found my footing and, near the half-mile mark, everything clicked at once in a single undefinable monment – my feet gliding over the uneven surface, my breath like a gentle metronome, the soft aroma of the wildflowers pacing me. It was like old times again. I’ve had very similar feelings often during sitting – when I’ve been struggling with the thoughts in my head whirling around like clothes in a dryer and suddenly the sound seems to drop out of the room, the uneven rhythm of my breath relaxes into a soft rise and fall in my abdomen, and I am, just like that, at peace. That’s how I felt running on the trail in the rapidly dissolving coolness of the early morning – like I was at peace.
Later in the day I realized my upper body was much more sore than my lower, and I felt more tired than I usually did after a longer run on the road, and I was reminded trail running is a whole body and mind experience, demanding all of your muscles for balance and power and all of your attention and awareness with every step. Trail running does not allow any part of your self to switch off – it demands you become a living, breathing part of the surface on which you are running. It all made for a comfortably rewarding kind of tired, the tired that comes from giving all of yourself without thinking about the effort. I’m looking forward to more.