I have friends who love to run as much as I do, but will only do so on asphalt or cement. It’s all about having an even, predictable surface beneath their feet. It’s all about no surprises.
I understand their preference, even though I don’t share it. When you don’t have to worry about roots, rocks and sudden dips in the trail, you have the luxury of looking around and taking in the scenery. But when you run mountain trails as I love to do, you have to watch your feet.
You have to keep your focus. If you don’t, you will always pay a price.
At best, a stumble shakes you to the core. Even if you catch yourself, you have to slow down, recalibrate and shake it off. At worst, it might even take you out of a race.
I remember a spectacular trail race in the beautiful North Cascade Mountains. Leaping down that jagged rocky path, I was feeling great to have done so well up the 5 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain now behind me.
Downhill all the way to the finish, I had it made. Everything was going my way — until I came around one of the switchbacks and met someone coming up the trails. There in front of me was a German photographer with walking sticks, German hiking hat and lederhosen.
There was nothing wrong with the outfit. It was the incongruity of it that threw me.
Just for a moment, I took my eyes off the trail to gape at the unusual sight before me. At the same time, my right toe caught the corner of a piece of granite sticking out of the ground. I hit the rocky trail trying to roll, but the sharp rocks grabbed at my hide and skin with malice.
Ooh, I hurt. I tried to jump up quickly, but that did not happen.
“Oh meine Güte!” gasped the German. And then in English, “Are you OK?”