For me, early spring has always been a time of anticipation, optimism, and excitement. The days feel long again, the sun shines down with an intensity that isn’t felt in the winter months, and everything and everyone seems to wake up and begin to prepare for what lies ahead. As much as I love winter, by this time of year I am always ready for the excitement of spring. This year is certainly no exception.
On a personal level I have so many things I’m optimistic and excited about right now. This is the first edition of a yet-unnamed, bi-weekly column that I’ll be writing here on iRunFar. I’ve always loved writing, but I have a hard time feeling creative and productive in my writing unless I have assignments to keep me in practice. I think having an assignment “due” every couple weeks will be the perfect dynamic to keep me in practice, and to keep some interesting ideas flowing from my mind to the keyboard. Or so we can hope.
I’m also at a place in which I’m more optimistic and excited about my coming months of running than I have been in quite some time. Despite having just completed a 350-mile race a few weeks ago, I feel as though I’ve had an extended break from running since mid-December, and I feel this is just what my mind and body needs. Almost all of the running I have done since December has been on snow, usually in snowshoes, at a very slow pace, and often walking. When I lace up the shoes and head out for my first post Iditarod Trail Invitational run sometime in the next few days, I suspect that running will feel more alien to me than it has any time in the last few years. With this unfamiliarity fueling me, I will get to come back to running in a place which best suits my mind, body, and spirit at this time, and not based nearly as much on previous ideas about what running is to me. I think of it as a chance to realign myself with my running, and this really excites me.
When I get back into the habit of running every day, I will undoubtedly begin to shift much of my focus to preparation for the Hardrock 100. I don’t know what’s more exciting for me, the notion of taking part in this event, or all the runs I’ll “need” to do to prepare for it. I’ve always preferred really steep, rugged mountain terrain. I think training on this type of terrain is a huge benefit, even for flatter races, but never before have I done a race in which the training that I like to do all the time will be the perfect training. What this all means is that I will likely spend even more time than usual high up in the mountains this spring and summer, and I’m nothing but terribly excited for this.
Looking beyond my individual situation, I think this is also a really exciting and optimistic time for the sport of trail running. The variety of events and athletes which make up the sport right now is so much greater than it was just a few years ago. The popularity of trail and mountain running is growing rapidly around the planet, and this is bringing together folks from so many different cultures, bound by a single passion for traveling on foot through wild, rugged, and scenic places. It is becoming a truly global sport and I think this is a very exciting thing. Whether you’re driven by the opportunity to compete against runners from around the world; in locations around the world; or whether you simply love to run in new and exciting places – and love to share that experience with like-minded individuals – it’s a great time to be a trail runner.
There are more events than ever to choose from that suit anyone and everyone’s tastes. Most of these events (either directly or indirectly) help promote sustainable trail/land use, and encourage or participate in trail maintenance and development. More than ever before, the popularity of trail running is fueling the creation of more places to go trail running.
I think it is also a really exciting time for the competitive side of the sport. As trail running has grown in popularity, so too have the amount of races and runners that are focused more on the competitive aspects of trail running. As more events distinguish themselves in this way, more runners are drawn in from road running and other competitive sports, as they realize they can have their competitive interests met doing something as natural and satisfying as running in the mountains. I have taken part in a lot of different sports over the years, and have had a lot of fun doing so, but not one of them has ever felt nearly as natural and satisfying as running on trails through the mountains.
There has been much speculation over the past couple years about what will happen as more of this “new breed” of athlete comes to the sport of trail running. Even now, you regularly see people debating the impact that top marathon runners will have as they are drawn into the sport by races with more prize money and more focus on high level competition. The thing is that this is no longer a thing of the future; this is a thing that is already here and has been here for quite some time. There are dozens of trail races offering more than a $1000 prize for the winner, including a few offering $5000 or more. These events have already led to the expected result of drawing some top road runners to the sport. It is no longer a question of what will happen when several sub-2:20 marathoners start running trail races, because this has already happened.
The result of all of this: Several really fast road runners have been humbled and awed by the ability of the “slower trail runners;” several really strong and accomplished trail runners have been humbled and awed by the raw ability of the road runners; and, most importantly, a lot of really exciting racing has occurred. Of the dozen or more sub-2:20 marathoners that have taken on competitive trail running in the past few years, I can’t think of a single one who hasn’t been beaten on the trails at least once, in most cases by runners whose marathon PR is 15+ minutes slower than theirs. Conversely, most of these road runners have run some very impressive races, and will likely continue to improve as they become more comfortable on the trails.
Thus, it is no longer a question of what will happen when trail running goes through these changes. The changes have come, and the sport has become more exciting and diverse than ever before. Things will certainly continue to grow and evolve, but this is no longer a thing to anticipate or fear about the future, it is here and now, and in its wake it has left a level of anticipation, optimism, and excitement beyond any that has ever existed in trail running. Or maybe it’s just the return of the warm, sunny weather that has me feeling this way.
At any rate, I am super excited to see where things go from here – both in my individual running and in the sport of trail running as a whole. Anyone else feeling this excitement?
Run Like Geoff Roes Giveaway
To kick of the new column, we’re giving away a “Run Like Geoff Roes” prize pack made up of my favorite trail running gear and nutritional products. To enter, just leave a comment on this article [on the website, not as an email] before the next installment of my column on April 11. It’s as simple as that.
Here’s what the winner, Megan of Run Aimlessly, won:
- Montrail – Montrail Mountain Masochist II trail running shoes;
- Mountain Hardwear – Way2Cool Tank (women’s), Ultrafuel Short (or the women’s Ultrapacer Short), and Effusion Power Jacket (women’s) (if an item is unavailable, a reasonable substitution will be made);
- Clif – 4 canisters Clif Shot Electrolyte Drink, 4 boxes Clif Shot Energy Gel, and 4 boxes Clif Shot Bloks, as well as a Clif beanie and Shot visor. (The winner has his or her choice of flavors on the Shot products.);
- Ryders Eyewear – Winner’s choice of a pair of Shot sunglasses;
- Drymax – 6 pairs Drymax Lite Trail mini crew socks; and
- Udo’s Oil – A 32 ounce bottle of Udo’s Oil 3-6-9 Blend.
Call for Comments
- What are you most anticipating as we enter spring?
- What aspects of the sport of trail running are you most excited about at the moment?
- Do you have a suggestion for a column name? If so, fire away! (We reserve the right to use any of the suggestions!)