One of the things I love about trail and ultra races is they teach you life skills … whether you want to learn them or not.
If you’re like me, you probably have a game plan in mind as you start a race. A neat and tidy mental map of how things are going to go.
And then, not long after the start, reality hits. That game plan falls apart and you have to navigate your new reality on the fly. Maybe it’s chafing, extreme temperatures or other weather conditions, a course that is more technical or hilly than expected. Maybe your nutrition isn’t sitting right or things just feel … off.
As much as we might hate these moments at the time, this is the beauty of what we do. These unexpected twists and turns do more than just keep our races interesting. They teach us how to be resilient. How to adapt, change, and persevere.
I found myself reminded of those lessons while launching this site.
I have an unlikely love of trail and ultra running. I’m not fast. I never ran in school. I’m definitely not built to be a runner; I have the short stubby legs of a Jack Russell terrier. I never liked running, which I always imagined took place on boring roads.
But I love the outdoors. I do like challenges. And I am stubborn (some might say stupid), which I found comes in handy in long races. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point I became a guy who was just a miserable jerk to be around if he wasn’t getting out on the trails at least a couple of times a week. I was a trail runner.
Our job description as trail runners includes more than just running miles of trails. It includes watching hours of trail running documentaries on YouTube (annoying our significant others who would rather watch Ted Lasso with us). And it includes reading all the trail running articles we can get. The catch for Northeast runners: Good luck finding coverage of the trails and events you know and love.
Look, I love a good article about Western States or UTMB as much as the next trail runner. But Northeast trail running deserves to be celebrated every bit as much as trail running on the West Coast or in Europe. Sure, our peaks might not be as high or our forests as large, but our trails are just as beautiful (and often more technical). Our races are just as challenging. Our race directors just as imaginative (and, sometimes, sadistic). And our community is just as vibrant and wonderful. That deserves to be celebrated.
So, I decided to launch Northeast Trail Running … three years ago. Yep, with excitement and optimism, I planned to launch in 2020. Then those curveballs started coming. First there was the pandemic. (Do we go out? Stay close to home? How do we write about trail running in all these places if we shouldn’t go to them?) Then I broke my leg – an impact fracture of the tibia from an awkward fall. That meant no weight bearing, then a long recovery, setbacks, surgery, more recovery, then a long, delicate dance of progress and setbacks, setbacks and progress. It meant 18 months of no running, and 30 months later there are still challenges.
That forced exile from trail running only deepened my love for it. It grew my appreciation for scenic mountain vistas, the sunbeams through the forest canopy, the meditative focus on navigating the rocks and roots on the trail in front of me. I missed packing up for long runs, missed the strain of a tough uphill climb, and the exhilaration of running downhill. Believe it or not, I even missed the sensation of bonking. (Weird, I know.) I missed meeting people who get it when so many people don’t, and I missed the poetic beauty of seeing racers of all stripes pushing through their personal barriers at a race, and runners passionately encouraging people they’ve never met before. I realized how lucky we are to have this place, this activity, this community. And I’m as excited as ever to explore it and celebrate it with you.
I hope you not only enjoy this site, but participate in it. Share your trail stories, your favorite places, memorable experiences, ideas you’d like to see us cover. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to tag us to share your photos. We’d love to see them and feature them.
We have lots of plans for the site. But, like any good trail run, you never know what will happen. However it plays out, I hope you’ll join us for the adventure.