What the Trail Wants

We are holding back, neither of us in peak form, both rehabbing from injuries and trying to get back to that place where the miles come easily and the trail flows. Who knows how far it is from here to there?

It’s ok. We have time. We can pile ten-minute miles on top of each other for weeks on end if we have to.

There are a few challenges to that plan though. The first is that we both remember what it’s like to be in the flow, fitter, faster, less struggley. The second is that we’re not sure how much we have to hold back to continue the healing process. Neither of us wants to be in that vicious cycle of injury and reinjury that happens when you push too hard, too soon. And then, of course, there’s what the trail wants.

Even when I’m plodding along, not finding my breath, not finding my feet, there are things the trail wants. In places it wants you to dance through a patch of rocks. In others it wants you to run a swoopy turn at speed. Long, gentle descents encourage you to lengthen your stride, swing your arms a little more. Sometimes the trail is irresistible.

I daydream these things, snippets of trail run well. Nothing hurts. There’s no struggle. And so when I get out there and the sun is bright and the wind is gentle, even when my legs and lungs aren’t on the same page, I run fast, faster than I should.

We agreed we would hold back, but we kept slipping over into faster mile splits. I was only wearing the watch to keep us honest. It’s weird to be disappointed in yourself for going too fast, and it’s weird to hold your mileage down when the weather is this nice. But it’s weirdest for a pair of runners who only want to feel the flow of the trail, regardless of the time on the watch face, to ignore what the trail wants.