Over the long holiday weekend I finally made it out to Afton State Park for a run with some friends. The weather was fabulous, as was the companionship and food: this was a gathering of Minnesota trail runners, complete with potluck after the romp through the woods, wetlands and prairie.
A good number of these people will be running in one of the fall Superior Trail races next weekend along Lake Superior’s North Shore. The shortest of those three races is marathon length, with the other two being 50 and 100-milers. All of them beat my furthest distance run by at least 11.2 miles, and my highest number of hours running by (likely) several hours (my 25k trail race took me just over three). Conversation brought us around to the fact that I haven’t run a race longer than a half-marathon or 25k race. One person thought maybe it was because I was a faster runner, who excels at shorter distances.
I suppose that could be it: especially when I run alone, I have a real hard time running slower than a nine and a half minute mile or so. Trails slow me down to an 11 or 12 minute mile, and that’s still an enjoyable pace for me. I do like feeling the wind brush the hairs on my arms, but I don’t believe I’m all that fast. My results don’t prove it.
My answer on Monday was that I simply wasn’t ready for the mileage jump, at this point. I’m training for a 10-mile road race in a few weeks, and one or two 25k trail races in October.
The truth is that I haven’t yet come up with a compelling reason to get out there and run for more than three hours. Trails may be easier on the joints, but because of that, running’s other stresses on the body are the reason for using a training plan that includes a lot more hours on trails than I currently spend.
I’m not willing to make that sacrifice to other areas in my life, at this point. I do love spending a couple hours, roaming luscious areas of greenery (or shadows on snow) with frequent opportunities to encounter wildlife. Presently I’ve finding it preferable to roaming around on pavement nearer to home. But I also love practicing yoga, teaching yoga, cooking with my husband, baking alone, commuting on my bike, shooting pictures, and enjoying some of the fun stuff that city life in the summer can offer (farmer’s markets, theater last weekend). I hope to get back into rock climbing, which has suffered neglect since I started teaching yoga.
I also enjoy tending my garden, although at this point it’s nearly running itself (if not preparing to run away). I’ve only been growing peppers and tomatoes for two years, but the size of those plants is astounding, right now! The beautiful, fascinating produce that comes out of my backyard and my efforts is worth more than a summer spent logging more hours on the road and on trails.
It’s possible that the scenery of some longer trails may draw me toward a longer trail race: I’d see more if I were to keep going. It’s also possible that the companionship of some of the good friends I’ve made while trail running will pull me in. For now, I’ll enjoy the shorter spins that fit into my life. And I’ll wish those friends good running, in their races this weekend. Go!