The Long Road to Trail Running

RLAG Ambassador Heather shares her journey to Trail Running with us!

When people say “you’re a runner” I turn around and look to see who they are talking to. Because they cannot possibly be talking about me.

After six years of building up my road running from local 5k races to half marathons and a couple less-than-sprint-distance triathlons thrown in there, I still find it strange to call myself a runner. I most certainly don’t call myself a trail runner, but here I find myself, training for my first trail half marathon. And I’m not quite sure how I got here.

A friend introduced me to trail running two and a half years ago and I was instantly hooked. The tall trees above me, the fresh air filling my lungs and the constant change in my surroundings was right up my alley. However my transition to trail from road has not been seamless. Rather it has been a moving target of awe-filled inspiring runs to cancelled runs due to childcare, injury and weather. The shift from trail to road has been challenging, much like the hilly climbs I am forced to hike rather than run despite what my road running brain is telling me to do, “run”. I have had to throw my idea of a steady pace out the window and embrace the “flats”, a new term to me.  Running with more than a snack and a cell phone is something I am adjusting to, and I’m fairly certain that my new running vest contains way more survival gear than I need and not nearly enough water.

I started getting more serious about my running six years ago when I met a woman who has become my training partner, my good friend and the person who I always ask to do crazy fitness things with because she always says yes. Even when I hope she will say no. I ran my first half marathon with her, completed my first triathlon with her and we are currently training for the Deception Pass Trail Half Marathon together.

When I decided to run a trail half, I immediately began searching “trail half marathon training plans” online. I never found one that seemed quite right, however I am reading Hanny Allston’s “The Trail Running Guidebook” which contains a sample training plan. I modified that plan to fit my schedule and began my training at the start of February. I find I work better with a schedule, even if I cannot stick to it completely.

Throughout this training process I am constantly being thrown curveballs. In trail running I am prone to rolling my right ankle, something that never came up in my previous road runs. In trail running there are many more fuel and water questions, as I cannot duck into a local business or home if I get caught in an emergency situation. In trail running I don’t feel safe running long distances alone. And most recently, my trail runs are increasingly difficult due to this late winter weather barrage we are having. The trails are icy and cold, with small pockets of sunlight only every few kilometres and I find myself slowing down, not to enjoy the scenery, but rather to figure out just where to place my feet.

I would be lying if I said I am not scared for Deception Pass. I am terrified of not finishing, of injuring myself and having to be medically assisted off the course. I know road half marathons. I have run them and I know where I will finish and where I hit the wall and when I need to fuel. I like knowing myself, it brings me comfort. Right now, I am uncomfortable.

But I also like a challenge. That is apparent when you look at my running resume. Each year I set an uncomfortable goal for myself and somehow find it within myself to finish. Getting outside my comfort zone is the only way to know how far I can go. So a part of me, the part that isn’t scared sh*tless, is excited to find out just how far I can go on April 14th in Deception Pass State Park.

~ Heather Escaravage

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