I remember the day I decided to try trail running. It was a new territory and I was not sure if I was going to fall in love with it. At that time in my life (August 2013), I was obsessed with road running and trying to PR in every road race distance. But after facing injuries (tarsal tunnel syndrome) that forced me to take a step back for two months, and feeling like I wasn’t getting any faster – I desperately needed a change.
I considered signing up for a half Ironman and forcing myself to train for one as a way to change things up. After purchasing a road bike and forcing myself to swim at my gym, I just didn’t enjoy it. Not to mention, how expensive it is to train for a half Ironman!
So why not learn how to trail run? I already know how to run, let’s try running on trails. I started off running Leif Erikson trail in Forest Park, an 11.2 mile stretch that I was already familiar with. This type of trail isn’t dirt single track trail, it’s actually a wide, well-maintained, gravel thoroughfare. I fell in love with it. The trail was just a few miles away from work, and it was the perfect route to run before or after work. I loved being in the forest and enjoyed the elevation challenge on the rocky terrain.
Once I started logging 3-7 miles per trail run on a consistent weekly basis, I was hooked. How nice it is to be away from traffic, the smell of gasoline, waiting at stop lights, and praying to not get hit by a car. How nice it is to be out in nature, breathing in fresh clean air, and running up and down the trail.
After a few weeks of running on Leif, I started reading Twitter updates from local runners and following their blogs. I came across one blog where the runner talked about registering for Portland Trail Series: a super-cool, low-key three five race series (Fall, Spring, and Summer) held every other Wednesday at Forest Park covering 4-6 miles in distance. This sounded awesome to me and a great way to get into real trail running.
To prep for PTS, I wanted to make sure I knew what it was like to run on trails other than Leif Erikson, so I hit up a small stretch of the Wildwood Trail, which is 30 miles long at Forest Park. I only ran probably a mile total and fell in love with the dirt trail. I couldn’t wait to run my first PTS and see if I would really fall in love with racing on the trails with accomplished trail runners.
At my first PTS race, I remember running 10:08 per mile pace for a 5.78 mi race, and although I was so stoked to run the race (it included Wild Cherry, Wildwood, and a little bit of Leif Erikson), I didn’t know that I would be slower compared to road racing, even if I am running my little heart out. I typically run a 7:50-8:30 min/mile pace or faster in short distance road races – but add hills, new terrain, and on actual trails – it’s a whole other ball game.
After a couple of months running Leif Erikson and running four out of the five PTS races, I knew I wanted to register for my first trail race: a 50k! I eventually ended up registering for the Gorge Waterfalls 50k.
Trail runners were not lying when they said, “once you start running trails, you’ll never go back.”
How did you get into trail running? I would love to hear your story!