I've been thinking a lot lately about the ultimate question in running... "Why do I run?" It's such a difficult question and for many years I've never really known the answer. Initially I ran to be fitter, to feel better about myself, it's helped to reduce stress and anxiety. But since I have got into trail running the answer has become more clear...Total escapism! The world we live in is getting busier by the day. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, emails make our daily work more demanding, people want everything yesterday. Even if you get to the gym or hit the streets running you are surrounded with the latest gadgets, lots of people and traffic.
Hitting the trails strips back life to it's raw bear bones. The stresses of the modern world are left behind, you are transported back to a world that evolution has left behind. I stepped out of the modern world for an hour today. I slipped out of my claustrophobic shirt and trousers into shorts, running top and trainers, left my car and headed onto the trails on the South Downs, I headed into Houghton Forest past a few dog walkers and in moments was the only man on the earth (or so it seemed). I went on a 6 mile run quiet,beautiful and at times challenging. I was either running up or down but very rarely horizontal. Once I got through the dense forest, I tracked around the perimeter of the forest with stunning views all around of open rolling hills that went on as far as the eye could see. I couldn't be further away from the modern world (apart from my mobile phone!).
My feet did not touch the tarmac once. Trail running is exciting, I love to run in new places with a bit of the unknown factor thrown in. The trails are pollution free, better at conditioning your body with the ever changing terrain and so much better on the joints and muscles. I still don't mind the odd road race, as Scottish Ultra and trail runner Ellie Greenwood says on a recent post on her blog it's a good place to see where you are at with your overall speed. Ellie recently finished an amazing second place in the Comrades road marathon in Durban. I reckon she has got it spot on with her mix. You will never run a trail marathon quicker than a road marathon 1)They are usually a lot hillier, and 2) The changes in terrain. Who can run faster in sand than on tarmac! Today for instance I had to trudge through long wet grass up to my waist which was impossible to run in so I had to except a few minutes at walking pace. But surely that's a greater payoff than running on tarmac through the busy polluted streets or the monotomy of the treadmill.