I headed out on a Friday morning trail run just after sunrise with friends from NEO Trail on the Buckeye Trail at West Branch State Park. After a half mile jaunt on the road to the BT trail-head, we turned the 90 degree corner and dipped down onto the trail. Turning the corner brought a deep sigh of relief. It was like a load lifted off my shoulders, the ability to breathe deep was restored, and all was well in the world. It was a great run as nearly all trail runs are and I headed out again this morning...alone, or so I thought. Something told me: "It's November 1st and something probably starts today in the hunting world." I had no idea what I was thinking but thought I'd play it safe so I wore my Kettle Moraine 100 super-bright orange tech tee. Good thing I did, too. I passed 8 hunters with some carrying bows and others with shotguns. Five of those were standing right on the trail and I nearly ran them over since they blended in so well with the surroundings. At West Branch, they're not used to seeing runners at all...but hey, it's a state park and we all have the right to be out there, including them. I shot some video and pics and ended up with 7.1 miles of great enjoyment on a 39F, sunny Sunday morning just after sunrise.
What is it about the trail? Why does turning the corner onto the trail produce such a release? I just recently wrapped up the November issue of the Western Reserve Trail Running (WRTR) newsletter and my interview with the "spotlight" trail runner was yet another great one. From all the feedback I've heard, this is the favorite part of each month's newsletter. She eluded to the "feeling" of being out there and how she was so immediately drawn in when she first hit the trails. But honestly, it's not easy to explain to someone. With three 100-milers under my belt this year, the #1 question is "Why?" but quickly followed with "How do you keep going?" These are two very, very difficult questions to answer. Does "deep rooted passion" suffice as an acceptable answer? No? What about "It's just so gorgeous out there." No? I don't know how to answer these questions and any time I attempt to do so, I start to ramble and end up feeling like I would have been better off to just have kept my mouth shut. I feel like I did it a disservice by not explaining it properly. Want to know "Why?" Get out there and try it. You'll get it and then maybe, just maybe, you can explain it. For the life of me, I just can't and honestly, I'm tired of trying to. All I know is this: it's real, it's powerful, and I wish I could bottle it up, carry it with me everywhere I go, and share it with others. Unfortunately, it's a first-person experience only and toeing the trail is the only way you're going to "get it." Turns out, the e-mails continue to pour into my inbox each week from new trail runners who did just that and WHAM!...they're hooked. The natural questions quickly follow: trail shoes? headlamps? traction? walk the hills? run the hills? get wet? training advice? first 50K to run? That's where it gets fun and I'm all about helping the person who makes the choice on their own to lace up, get out there, and try it out. No wimps, no whiners, just a "go get 'em" attitude.
It was bedtime a few nights ago and I had just noticed that the registration date for next year's Massanutten Mountain Trails (MMT) 100 was announced. Excited, I quickly told Marjie about it and her response, although unexpected, was another version of the dreaded question: "Wasn't Oil Creek hard enough? Why do you have to go do this one?" I was speechless. How do I answer that? Even with her, I can't sum it up and explain it. In another interaction with a fellow runner who is doing a research project for her doctorate degree (subject matter is 100-mile runners....go figure!), she mentioned how I "lit up" when I talked about doing another 100 mile race. Yea, I get excited about it but I can't explain it. I even stumbled and bumbled with her! All I know is this: I have learned so much about myself, where my limits are or where they aren't, and that journey is priceless and is craved more and more with each passing day. I did run across a video, though, that really does sum it up quite well. David Goggins, a Navy Seal and elite ultra-runner, says it perfectly. While I don't compare myself to him physically or in ability, I completely share the "why" he so eloquently describes. It's a video I've watched several times simply to remind myself that I'm not alone in this pursuit and there are others out there who share the same thing I have. Enjoy it and listen close. He nailed it dead on.