NAIL THE TRAILS #4: Stop and Smell The Roses

How to achieve your trail running goals in ten significant steps.

(Continued from Tip #3: Hit The Track, Jack (Or, Variety Is The Spice Of Success)

Trail runners do get the occasional sideways looks from hikers, who sometimes voice their thought out loud: What’s the rush? Now, I would never tell a hiker to run, if it’s not what they want to do, but I might encourage a runner – myself included – to slow down occasionally. My local Catskill Mountains are blessed with views as beautiful as almost any in the world, and on a long training day, there’s nothing to be lost by parking up for a minute or two and admiring one of them. My running coach all but forced this upon me: knowing that nobody runs all of Manitou’s Revenge (some of it necessitates climbing hand over fist, or descending ledges with utmost, life-or-death care), he built several hikes, and run-hikes, in to my schedule. It was as important that I worked my uphill hiking muscles, after all, as my downhill running muscles.


The view looking north from the Devil’s Path, the torturous but beautiful middle section of Manitou’s Revenge. Taken on final training run two weeks before the race.

But even on those days where you can’t afford to slow down, that doesn’t mean you can’t metaphorically stop and smell the roses/rhododendron/pine etc., or otherwise find a way to demonstrate a love for your surroundings. During the Cat’s Tail Trail Marathon, a hot sunny day that brought hikers out on to the course en masse, I could see just how amazing the fall colors looked across the mountain range from the top of the Catskills’ highest peak, Slide, but I didn’t want to stop. (I’ve done so many a non-race day in the past.) So, I called out to the camera-happy crowd as I glided by, “Looks beautiful! Take one for me!” They seemed to appreciate that I appreciated their view. I often try to make a similar point of engaging positively with hikers as we pass, even if it’s just to say “have a great day out there.” I want them to know we’re engaged with something beyond the terrain at our feet.

Trail runners have their own philosophy on what they gain from covering more miles on the mountains than your average hiker, but it should never be a competition. And even a misty, rainy, or just generally grudgeful day doesn’t prevent me from taking stock of how fortunate I am to be alive and healthy and out and about and doing what comes naturally for humans if they can only put themselves to it. In other words, you don’t have to literally smell the roses to appreciate them.

The view from Slide Mountain, the middle and high point of the Cat’s Tail Trail Marathon, taken one week after Manitou’s Revenge. Had this been the exact view on race day, it’s possible I would have sacrificed a minute or two to appreciate it anyway….  

Continue to Part 5: Listen to Your Heart

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May 2021