Everything is familiar. Pulling into the park, same as yesterday. My spot is open – the one on the end that’s out of the way and I can change out of my work clothes and into my running gear without anyone seeing me. Shut off the car, leave the radio on for some last minute musical inspiration, open the door so I can tie my shoes easier. Still hot out even though the evening has pushed out the day. Sameness. Time to do some loops.
Miles ago, the newness was displaced by a sense of understanding. Me and this path understand that there are going to be days I put a beating on it and walk away with triumph and domination, and there will be other days I stumble away bewildered with my level of fitness and how I could possibly move over it so poorly. That is the understanding we have built with each other.
The familiarity extends to how discussions with friends are constructed – “park at the end of the service road”, “that section with the big climb just after the spring”, “meet at the stairs”, “under the train tracks”. We learn what a fast time for the loop is and what an easy time amounts to on the clock. We still wear watches and upload to Strava, even though after hundreds of attempts we can tell down to the minute, maybe the second what the watch will reveal based on our extended efforts.
The innocence, long since gone, is replaced by the feelings of regular, normal, sameness. Unlike those well-known trails we travel to for races or adventure runs, places our minds and senses become fully engaged with new sights, smells and feelings of a different place, our home trail invites the day’s problems along – to be worked alongside our muscles. These runs are an extension of our day, not the feature of it. There is rarely anything spectacular or terrifying about these runs. It is in this local arena that we fill in all the betweens, where we become a runner, hardened and battle ready. This is where we play out our next race in our heads thousands of times and decide just how bad we want it. Our trail and the daily grind are familiar, and necessary - the home trail and the places we dream of running fitting within our running universe perfectly, each providing the other the possibility and reason of existence.
Perhaps the most important aspects of our running are the lessons we learn about ourselves and the friendships we forge on these trails and paths. This is where we sweat together, we push each other, and we fail with each other. This isn’t just where we run fast; it’s also where we embrace what trail running is about to many of us - the time with friends in idyllic settings. It’s on these home-based trails that we tell tall tales of race performances, where we band together to fight off rogue dogs, where we ask our friends to tell us the story again about the time they saw the guy walking his pet kangaroo on the trail (true story). These are the trails where we embrace the necessity of training miles, but also where we pick up every piece of trash with disdain for those that left it on “our” trails. These are the places where we talk about the legends that came before us and set unrealistic goals for us to try to match. These are the places we choose because they are close to our favorite places to grab a post-run bite or drink, or because in the summer there is a cool stream to sit in post-run. These established, close to home trails provide us more than we ever give back, more than we ever give them credit for providing.
Our home trails are just that, ours. We protect them even while we bash them to each other. They make us - feel something, and even when we are running on them solo, we are not lonely. For some of us these trails are made of dirt, for others they are pavement or gravel. For some our trails are flat, some are mountainous. Some of us are from places like Bloomington, Memphis, and Oklahoma City and dream about living and running in Portland, Boulder, and San Francisco. But the magic is that the seemingly infinite number of loops on the local trails, the half mile hill that is run over and over to meet an elevation goal, it’s been working for people for some time. When the masses show up in Squaw, there are countless home loops represented from far off places – some flat and paved, some technical and scenic, some hot and short. And once you step off onto those iconic trails that you’ve only seen in movies or magazines, remember they are just someone’s home trail.
Check out the HOME TRAILS collection: HERE