It's funny that usually runners are in 2 very separate categories: Trail runners and road runners.
We identify ourselves as one or the other, our clothing is marketed to one group or the other (because it takes a totally different shirt to run trails than roads....), our shoes are Either "Trail" or "Road" even though most cross over quite well, heck, even our hydration belts are marketed differently (really?).
Me? I've always been a road runner. The concrete jungle, mile after mile. Each year I would go to Pickett State Park in Jamestown, TN and while I spent the weekend there I would trail run (in my road shoes, my road shorts, my road shirt...) and every time I would fall in love, swear that it was the best running I'd had all year, and then return home and go right back to the roads.
Several weeks ago I hit the trails here (the ironic thing is that I live in East TN where trail running can be found everywhere) to test a new 'trail' shoe I had received and once again, fell in love. It was one of those runs where I started out to run 6 and ended up running 12 - not because I was pushing myself, not because I had to, but because I fell in love with the run and wanted to keep pursuing her as far as I could (which in 94 degree heat and 10,000% humidity was 12 miles-and should have been more like 8!).
So I started examining it all: why do I always run roads, why do I always feel so 'different' when I run trails, what's the deal?
Well, for starters, I generally run roads because it's easier. Not easier to run on, but because I can step outside my house or step outside my office and just take off. No car involved at all, just go. It's also what I've pretty much always done (comfort and habit are two ridiculously powerful things).
But when I run trails, the running feels so much better, so much easier, more free, more Fun, more spiritual... more like... Running! You have the scenery - the mountains, the trees, the dirt under your feet, and the water (for a lot of the trails around here), and what you Don't have is monotony, traffic sounds, and gobs of people - it's like running through a Jay Clark song!
I think it's so much 'easier' - and understand I don't really mean Easy, I mean that peaceful easy Feeling (cue the Eagles) - because the scenery is so beautiful and ever changing, you Can't focus on breath counts (which is the best way to have a good one... by Not focusing on it), you can't maintain perfect cadence, or anything else, you just run. You revert to childhood and just... fly!
On the road, running is such second nature, that I can be in the 'runners trance' in No time - zone out, glazed over, robot mode. But if you try that on a trail, well, you'll die ;) You can't zone out, you have to constantly be paying attention, adjusting, watching, moving, jumping, changing pace, moving, Running.
Since that run, the only time I've been back on the road again was for the training run I conducted last night (you guys did AWESOME!), and plan to largely keep it that way. A good friend of mine and I are going to head up and run the Virginia Creeper in a couple of weeks and I can't wait for that!
So, in summary, if you need to fall in love with running again, try hitting the trails! You just might remember what running is all about... the LOVE of the run