Part of me has evolved radically this year. I am not talking about body shapes or spiritual beliefs, but still, radical change has been the order of the year it seems. A huge part of that has been the way I have completely fallen in love with trail running. For the last few years, running has been the final nail in the Ironman puzzle – the success factor for a successful race was the way in which I managed energy at the end of a 3.8km swim & 180km bike ride.
I ran to win after a hopefully successful set-up on the swim and bike.
Then something happened. At Otter last year, I ran to run. For no other reason than to simply run. A monumental shift occurred during those 5 hours. I was so exhausted from the shift in the week afterward that I didn’t even fully realise what had happened.
It wasn’t until my preparation for Ironman 2013 came about that I realised what had changed. I ran heavy trails in prep for Ironman this year. 80% of my preparation was on trails as I just couldn’t bring myself to running on the road. While I still love a good plod along the promenade every once in a while, I now go out of my way to run on the trails.
It coincided with my growing aversion to using technology while training and analysing it afterward. I still keep Strava as a record for what I have done, but that’s it. I prefer to train on routes where I am not looking at numbers. Sure, I like seeing I climbed 5500m on a big bike ride, or ran 12 x sub 4min kilometers out on the road, but they are secondary wins. The primary win is running somewhere new, where its easy one minute and damn hard the next, having nothing to compare it to and relishing the pain and the sweet easy sections each as thoroughly as the other.
And so, in 2013 the mountains came calling. I discovered what I would call true trail running – big vertical gains and drops, hiking sections and really technical trails. I was totally out of my depth most of the time and it was the need to upskill quickly that was another draw card in this transformation.
It’s really as simple as going to Google images and typing “road running” and hitting search and comparing it to typing “trail running” and searching again.
The images speak for themselves. I am the solo guy, running away from society, searching for quiet and calm. I am not the guy in the group with the running number on his chest and back, looking for coke at the next aid station and wearing the bad race t-shirt to my next braai with friends.
I am a loner. I train alone. It’s the way I prefer it. I’m not big on chit chat and I certainly don’t like ‘society’ as a whole. So I run for my own space, my own time and my own expression. I run to improve my ability to move, to conquer mountains and to go places I have never been to.
I run because I can and because I should, because I can. I run for me.
Part of a much more extensive shift, this initial shift led me to entering Cent Cols Challenge, where another huge shift occured. This one we won’t see the full manifestation of until next year, but running was the catalyst for change.
Running is the catalyst for so much, for so many.