This past Saturday, I ran in my first trail race, a 10k named the Eagle River Challenge. Eagle River is actually the small town I grew up in, about 10 miles outside of Anchorage. Before the race even began, I knew it was going to be a good day when this was the scenery that greeted me at the start line:
Being my first trail race – and my first 10k – I really had no idea what to expect in terms of pace and overall time. Before the race began, the race director warned us that this was a fairly technical course, and that we shouldn’t be expecting any PR’s! As we got moving, I quickly learned that pacing on trails is completely different than pacing on the road. There were lots of ups and downs, where I followed the lead of others and walked some of the steeper sections of trail. Other sections were covered in roots and rocks, making it difficult to move very quickly. And it even got pretty muddy in a few places, which left me with wet feet and a decent blister on my right foot.
At the end of the day, I crossed the finish line in 1:09:30. But even more important than my time, was the freedom and joy I found running out on that trail. The feeling of running through the woods on barely-there trails was a feeling like I had never experienced running on roads, or even the paved trails in Anchorage.
Many times, I feel like I get tot focused on the mechanics of running. One foot in front of the other. How’s my breathing? Am I keeping a fast enough pace? How’s my heart rate? Running out on the trails, all of those thoughts just sort of melted away, and I just ran – and had the time of my life doing it. I definitely see a lot more trail running in my future. One of the upsides of living in Alaska, is that we have tons of trails, they can just be a little harder to get to than just heading down the street or to one of the paved trails around Anchorage. But I learned this weekend, that the extra bit of effort is totally worth it.
When I started telling people that I had signed up for my first trail race, many of them said something along the lines of “be careful, trail running can be addictive!” And now I know exactly what they meant – I may have a hard time going back to road running 🙂