From the Road to the Trails: Finding (and Loving) Trail Running

I have been running for the past 2.5 years, and most of my experience has been on the road. Completing 3 marathons, numerous half marathons, 10ks, 5ks, and even an obstacle race or 3, I never had any real experience with running trails. However, after completing my 2nd marathon, I found myself unmotivated and almost ready to leave running behind. That’s when I found ultra marathons and trail running.

Believe or not, I have only just completed all 3 marathons in last 4 months. My first marathon was Baltimore in 2015, and it was probably one of the hardest yet rewarding experiences to date. I stood at the finish line bordering on tears and jumping (more like hobbling) for joy. But a few days later, after the endorphin rush subsided, I found myself lost. I mean what’s left after running marathon, run another one, and then another one? Sure you can change it up. Find a different destination race; do a marathon challenge, like one of my goal races: the around the world challenge. Yet when I sat there and pondered my next race, I felt lost and dark. That’s when I came across YouTube channels, in particular The Ginger Runner Channel, of people running 30, 50, and 100 miles at once with thousands of feet of elevation change, at times barely passable paths, and through extreme weather conditions. I was horrified; yet, the more the more I watched, the more I found myself wanting to do one them.

So with my spirits low and sights set on large goals, I signed up for the Grand Canyon 55k. That’s right, go big or go home. This race is particularly challenging, being at 8,000 feet above sea level and a 2,000 feet elevation climb with no downhill. Yes, challenging is my game! Having signed up for this on a whim, I had no clue how I was going to train for this. Should I run trail or would running road be enough? What about track workouts? Do I need different shoes? Nutrition? Where are trails in Baltimore? All these questions and more started spinning in my head.

So to the internet I took, and managed to find my way to CCR’s website. I saw that they offered various running groups including an ultra marathon group. For me, this was a big jump. Having never run in a group and being so used to road running (you know the solidarity of running alone with headphones in), I wasn’t sure if I would fit into to a group. But I took a leap of faith, and signed up. Within a few days of finishing my second marathon, I was signed up for an ultra marathon and a training group. And with those two decisions, I found myself as a runner again.

I have been running with the CCR Timonium group for a few months, and it’s been a blast. Switching to trail has been amazing, and I’ve rediscovered myself as a runner. The group was really close, and at first, I didn’t think I could worm my way in. But that’s what is amazing about the trail running community: the entire community as a whole is warm, welcoming, and open to all!

This brings me to my next point I want to discuss: community. For me personally, when I was road running, I didn’t feel part of a group other than I was a runner. But with trail running that wasn’t the case. Over the past few months, I have formed great relationships with all the members of the group and had even more opportunities to meet other trail runners and bloggers. We have run together, shared in the post run euphoria, felt each others pain, and recanted our journeys. Each person brings their own story and experiences, and it allows you see how diverse the community is. Running with them makes the good days great and bad days better.

 My Running Tribe

My Running Tribe

Trails have taught me a lot about being a runner! In road running I had forgotten what it was to run. But in trail running, I’ve found my passion again. Each run, I am filled with energy to push further and longer, to conquer larger climbs, but most importantly do something I truly enjoy doing. It’s not about running anymore, it’s about the journey. Instead of shutting out the world, I run without headphones. The sounds of nature are amazing. It’s just me, the birds, and trees; it’s amazing to be able to go for hours without even missing music.  I no longer think “when is this run going to be over?” Instead, I am find myself yearning for weekend, so I can escape the city and find myself again on the trails.

 Finish of HAT 50K 2016

Finish of HAT 50K 2016

So, what are the basics of trail running? The only thing I would suggest to someone who is new to trail running is to be open to a journey. The trails are there, and if you let them they will guide you to your path. It may be winding, up a mountain or twelve, or through a few rivers. But they will guide, as long as you open yourself to them. Technique, pace, and speed will all come with time, so I would strongly advise against worrying about them, and just let yourself be free. Do something that fills you with passion and puts a smile on your face each time! Life is short, so go have an adventure! Never stop exploring!

Until next time,

The Average Joe Trail Runner


About the Author: Alexander Harris

I am the self proclaimed Average Joe of trail running. I am not fast or elite, but I enjoy it passionately. I have my sights set high wanting to run my first 100 miler next year, and completing 4 ultras this year. In my spare time when I am not running, I enjoy photography and am working on bettering my skills to start producing my own running vlogs and documentaries. Feel free to follow my adventures on my blog at averagejoetrailrunner.wordpress.com.