When Fleet Feet Sports owner Phil Young said that trail running is different from street running, I’ll have to admit, I was a bit skeptical of just how different it could be. As an avid runner, I wasn’t quite sure just how different running on a trail could be from running on the streets. I was wrong as last Saturday night at the Illiniwek Forest Preserve my wife Alexandra and I ran our first trail run at the 2nd Annual: Illiniwek: Race the Night 7K/14K Trail Run & Kids Fun Run
As we walked towards the starting line, we both laughed as it took us a few attempts to get our headlamps working and I was hoping that would not be an indicator of how our first trail run was about to be. The 7K started at 8pm, so there was a little bit of sunlight for the first part but it quickly set and the headlamps were the only light we had as we ran the course through Illiniwek Park. My wife chose to lead the way so that we could go at her pace, which was surprisingly faster than I thought it would be. More on that later. As the darkness set in, I kept saying out loud, “I love this.” Phil was right. There was something spiritual about this. Being only able to see what your headlamp light showed and the occasional flashlight from the water stations, it really was you and nature. And I’ll have to admit, having no music on hearing the sounds of the night and pretty much being in the dark added some extra elements of excitement and anxiety to us that we were not expecting. “There was definitely an adrenaline rush because it was so dark,” explained Alexandra. “So that pushed you to run faster and get out.”
When Phil talked about trail running being the only aspect of running that is growing, I now understood why. It was the simplicity of it. It was the therapeutic feeling I got out of it by not knowing what natural obstacle was coming up next but being ready for anything. I’m always so confident in my regular street runs but not this trail run. This was very different and I liked it. As we tracked our distance on a run app I had, I kept saying that we just had a little bit left to go towards the end. I think the race did go a bit over the 7K mark, being closer to an 8K but we didn’t mind at all. It just showed that we could continue to push ourselves past the point of where we thought we were going to stop.
Having crossed many finish lines from marathons and mud runs to 5Ks and fun runs, this one was special in its own way. A different sense of accomplishment set over my wife and I as we completed our first trail run. And to make it even better, this was the longest my wife had ever run without stopping and to our surprise she placed 3rd in her division.
After the event, I made the comment to someone that I think after one trail run, I’m addicted. Being on unfamiliar territory and relying on your senses and very little light does something to you. It reminds you that all the material things you think you need every minute of everyday are really unnecessary and mundane. All you really need is a solid partner to run with, some good people around you to keep you going and a trail that will provide all of life’s natural obstacles and challenges for you to conquer. “I very much enjoyed my first trail run,” said Alexandra. “I’ll most definitely do it again next year.