The cool air on my body, the smell of the trees and the lure of the trail. An excitement in my heart and free will of my spirit to be set loose on Gods beautiful creation. A low murmur of expectation between athletes, the sun warming my skin and a glistening in my eye of what might or might not become in the coming hours. The trail calls my name...into the unexpected.
This week, I listened to an inspiring podcast about trail culture. The boys at Trail Runner Nation asked listeners to blog or just talk about what it is that makes our sport special and incredibly unique. This is something that I feel a true kindred heart toward and believe it to be something so amazing about trail running, but in particular ultra trail running.
Putting others before yourself is not something that happens a lot these days, but is something expected in trail running. For an unknown glorious reason, the partakers in ultra marathons would prefer to help a brother or sister out in a time of need, then run a personal best in a 50 mile race.
Conversation between runners is always positive and more often than not, entertaining about what some lunatic has done, a crazy race that exists or just open, honest, heartfelt talk about matters of the heart...family, love, struggles...whatever flows throughout the kilometers.
A smile is something that is never amiss on a trail too. Even those in the lead, streaking out a beautiful stride, always have time for a G'day and a smile...generally laughing at the bloke wearing Jesus sandals and covered in tattoos. The encouraging words from the rabbits up front and the plodders at the rear of the field warms your heart and pushes you on, where you might have once stopped from exhaustion....'if they believe in me, maybe I can go just a couple more k's'.....and on it goes!
To do an ultra marathon on trails requires a certain amount of toughness that's without doubt, but at the souls of the amazing people who run them is of a love for nature, finding out what the human spirit and body can do, a passion for the out doors and a willingness to do something that 90% of the population think is lunacy!
Very rarely will you ever find rubbish on the trail, and if someone has dropped some by mistake, another runner will pick it up. Aid stations are not a litter of plastic cups...more made of warm smiles from volunteers, polite assistance for those in need, appreciation for the time spent to help and some ripper food, usually home prepared.
Countless hours marking courses, individual finishing prizes, arranging medical forms, ensuring runners are ok and all at a minimal entry fee is something that should not be taken for granted.
Trail running to me, whilst I love the running and the personal challenge, is more about the friends I have made and the familiar faces I see at the starting line, usually in the dark, and get to run with, catch up with, share their joys and sorrows and continue and interconnection that can only be found whilst running ridiculous distances. The trail running culture, and in my case the ultra running community is about family. We are all a little mad in one way or another, but I have a warm, genuine love and passion in my heart for my comrades, amigos, brothers and sisters.
Being in nature, trail running, being free from the busyness of life is an incredible and passionate part of my life. As a Christian, I feel God most closely when on a beautiful single track in complete admiration of what He has created for me to enjoy and share with others. If you haven't experienced trail running, or trail culture, it is hard to articulate. I hope though, in some small way, I have been able to share what this breathtaking and soul enriching culture means to me. Now go out and run....run free my mas loco family!
To listen to the mentioned Podcast mentioned, check out Trail Runner Nation at - http://trailrunnernation.com/2013/05/bob-crowley-josh-katzman-trail-running-culture-are-we-at-risk-of-losing-it/