Finding Peace on the Trails

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

By: Charm City Run Training Coach Erica Stein

The whistle of the wind rustling through the trees. The resounding crunch of the leaves below my feet. The harmonious chirping of the birds. The swoosh of the stream as it flows over the rocks. There is a peace to be found on the trails that is difficult to match.

Running trails is fairly new to me. I had lost my running mojo. Running began to feel like a chore and I was no longer looking forward to lacing up my shoes and hitting the pavement. Running became purely goal oriented and I had forgotten the reason I got out there in the first place, purely for the sake of running. For moving. For feeling the gentle breeze tickle my skin. For basking in the radiant sunshine. For experiencing the outdoors in all the seasons. For the solitude and also the camaraderie. For the time spent in reflection. For the natural mood-enhancing benefits. For the reduction in stress and anxiety. So many reasons that I loved running and yet they all seemed to disappear when I was focused on a singular goal. Those positive experiences were sacrificed when all that seemed to matter was pace and mileage and PRs and it sucked out all the joy I had for running. I wasn’t ready to give up on running. After all, it had always been there for me when I had felt otherwise alone. But a change had to be made.

Enter trail running. Running trails is not about speed. It’s about setting your own pace while connecting with nature. It’s about immersing yourself in the natural beauty around you. Losing yourself in the embrace of the towering trees and escaping the chaos of daily life. I dropped my weekly mileage and brought some of my longer runs to the trails. Immediately the pressure to run fast or reach a certain distance was gone. The focus instead was absorbing the tranquility of the natural environment while also maintaining my footing.

I incorporated trails to rejuvenate my love of running. I did not expect to gain so much more. In the midst of those wooded havens I have felt a peace that transcends any I have experienced elsewhere. Trail running is quite meditative, helping to clear the mind of all the noise. It requires a level of attention that road running does not. The uneven and ever changing terrain forces you to be present in the moment, focusing on the rhythm of your steps as they navigate the various obstacles. The serenity and solitude allows for self-reflection and provides a safe space to be present with my grief. Never lonely on the trails though because trail running also provides ample opportunity for connection with my fellow runners.

Venturing into the realm of trail running has improved the entirety of my running experience. By moving away from the rigid constraints of paces and distance I paradoxically surpassed the goals I had previously set for myself without conscious effort. I am still loyal to the familiar predictability of the roads but the trails have become a treasured escape to which I can always return. By incorporating both into my running regiment I have once again found my joy in running.


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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