Hit the Trail

On the TrailI love running trails. Something about slipping into the woods with a canopy of trees overhead and the sound of earth under my feet – I get pumped. I don’t run fast on trails; in fact I run a good bit slower and find the runs to be more difficult, what with having to balance and avoid roots and basically keep myself vertical. But I usually feel quite rejuvenated after a good run on a trail.

So when I was flipping through the Runner’s World magazine a few months ago, an ad for the North Face Endurance Challenge jumped out at me. It’s a trail race along the Pine Mountain Ridge in north Georgia, and promises to be “an ultimate test of endurance.” There will be rocks, roots, water crossings and lots of hills. I read all of this, and immediately wanted to sign up for the half-marathon.
What is wrong with me? 
I have very few trails on which to train around here, and no real hills. But you know what will make this race work for me? Buddy power. I knew if I could convince Nicole that she too wanted to suffer on a 13-mile trail in the mountains, then we could conquer this together. She said yes. 
What is wrong with her?
My race training actually began in a much more legit way than I could have anticipated. During our month in Costa Rica, I had planned to stick to my 3-day-a-week running schedule, but keeping the runs short and easy. Vacation-style. 
Well, I kept them short, but they weren’t easy. The area around our vacation rental was quite hilly and all the roads were unpaved and full of pot holes, rocks, and all kinds of tripping hazards. I was getting my hill/trail training whether I intended to or not. And holy humidity! Even stepping out before 6 a.m. still meant running in the thick, tropical heat.

Spectator CowsHowler Monkeys on My Run

I loved running in a new area, with funky cows and howler monkeys for company. But it was eye-opening, too. A few times, I’d hear my phone app chime “Distance – 1 mile,” and I’d start to panic. That 1 mile felt more like 3. “Is this what the half-marathon will feel like? I’ll never make it,” I’d tell myself. Then I’d imagine running through the woods with Nicole, laughing and being silly, and I’d feel better.
I know few other runners with whom I could trust myself on a 13-mile mountain trial race. If we’re on that trail and I want to sing and dance, she’ll be cool with it. If I want to cry, she’ll tell me to suck it up but she’ll let me rest a minute and she’ll still be my friend. If I fall down (when I fall down), she won’t laugh. Unless it’s funny. And I’ll do the same for her.
I’m looking forward to the race. To a new challenge. To wearing that medal around my neck. But most of all, I’m looking forward to spending several hours in the woods with a great friend, pushing each other to our limits, and then crossing that finish line together.

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