A couple years ago, I fell in with a group of pretty serious runners who would gather every Thursday morning @ 5:30AM to run a 11.5 mile trail with roughly 3,000 feet of climbing.
I was in pretty solid road shape the first time I showed up for this ordeal, but the trails had not been part of my running routine for nearly 20 years.
Nearly two hours later, I completed the run. My quads were destroyed along with just about everything else. It would take me two weeks to fully recover mentally and physically.
The second time I tackled it, this run was at least marginally more manageable. At the very least, I knew what I was signing up for. The second time didn't kill me, thus I grew stronger.
My body rediscovered muscles that been idle for months (if not years) as it became more adept at handling the uneven terrain, the lengthy (and often stout) climbs, and the sharp declines that inevitably followed most of the lengthy ascents. Trail running is like a roller coaster sans the coaster and the track.
I came to love my time on the trail as much (if not more) than my time on the road. Managing the aforementioned terrain, ascents, descents, and everything in between requires a level of engagement not typically required on the road. On the road, you can zone out and cruise. This kind of zoning out can be disastrous on the trail.
I understand why some may dislike trail running for this very reason. You can't easily throw on your headphones and go out and log some miles on the trail. There are simply too many variables you are managing whilst on the trail to do this. You must be engaged when you're on the trail.
As I rediscovered trail running, I also rediscovered an experience that had been largely absent from my experiences on the road. There are moments (sometimes many of them) when I simply lose myself while I am on the trail.
I become the personification of running. There's no ruminating about daily trials and travails. There's no internal dialogue. Any worries, fears, or anxieties I brought with me on the run simply fade out. The mind goes quiet.
My entire existence is the next step and the next breath. I am completely present in the moment not looking forward nor back. Time becomes a nebulous concept. I don't know if minutes or hours have passed.
I love running fast. I love running hard. I love exploring the limits of how fast and how far I can go. I love the euphoria one experiences from the runner's high.
There are innumerable things about the act of running that I love. But, transcending everything are the moments of flow I experience when I am running on the trail. I run because I seek the flow...