True Trail Running – The Joys of the Woods
This morning I returned to run Matthews Trail with my faithful running partner, Lady Godiva. I had not run the total trail since last year around this time. For the last couple of years I have been training for distance on the New River Trail and my rural roads around home. I have really missed true trail running in the deep woods.
So why do I miss it? There is nothing like driving out to Matthews where I find a rare stillness, and few people are ever there to interrupt the solitude I value so much. I love running the deep woods where everything is left in its natural state and there is a nominal trail created by the mountain bikers that blends with all that was put there by Someone much greater than ourselves.
From the time I was a little girl I have found a peaceful refuge in fleeing to the woods alone. It doesn’t take long for me to realize I am never alone. I become very aware of the One who created it all. As a little girl I didn’t fully grasp His Presence as I do now. I would snuggle deep in the rhododendron on a bed of leaves and remain very quiet till I was accepted by all the critters around me. Before long they cautiously resumed their activities my intrusion had interrupted. I sat in what I call God’s classroom and observed and learned the behavior of multiple birds and wildlife. Oddly enough I never felt fear or out of place. Quite the opposite was true; I felt I was where I belonged. Becoming an adult never changed that.
I enjoyed hunting for awhile when my boys were growing up. Sitting high in a deer stand for hours seemed very natural for me. I had spent many summer days up in a make shift tree house I built myself reading a good book, praying, or just thinking. I tried to teach my children the value of being still. It is how you find out who you are, and it is how you begin to hear the voice of God.
After years of being a roadrunner I was introduced to trail running. My very first trail run was in Spruce Pines, NC known as the Springmaid Splash. It consisted of 6.2 miles of running up and down mountain ridges on primitive trails, and you run through a river a few times. I thought I had died, and gone to heaven! From then on I sought out any trail run I could find. After moving back to Galax, Va I was introduced to the Matthews State Forest and the mountain bike trails. I pathetically biked the 3 miles on the left side thinking, this is not my thing! However, I thought this is a trail runner’s paradise! I ventured back out in running attire and stayed lost most of the time, but loved every minute. Eventually I organized and directed what is now known as the Annual Matthews State Forest Trail Run which is held the first Saturday in April. For more information go to my website: masterpiecefitness.com.
This morning as I began my run I was elated to be back! I have spent the last couple years training hard for a marathon, the New River 50K, and this past year the Virginia Challenge Triathlon. This past Saturday I ran the 25K at Salem Lake in Winston, and decided it would end the grueling training regiment I have allowed myself to be chained to for the past two years. I am going to go back to trail running for the sake of running in the woods for fun and fun only. This morning’s run reminded me of why I love running. Running trails and scaling mountain ridges is an adrenaline rush. I let her rip on the downhill which deeply satisfies the child very much alive inside of this aging body. I can’t help but have a ridiculous grin spread across my face from the satisfaction of feeling so alive and young again. An extra bonus was watching a deer running down a steep incline with incredible grace and leaps that trumped anything you will see during a professional ballet. I stopped in my tracks just to observe the most beautiful exhibition of effortless movements my eyes had ever beheld! I was overwhelmed with feelings of jealousy and envy, but only for a moment. My heart filled with thankfulness to God for every step I am still able to take and every breath I breathe in. I am a product of mercy and grace. After a serious horse accident I ended up in a wheelchair for a season. I take nothing for granted anymore. I truly know where my strength and help comes from.
I hope by bringing you into my world briefly it will be an encouragement for you to head out to Matthews or wherever you can find trails, and try trail running or maybe just walking. Retreating to the woods away from the busy world for awhile will be rewarding in ways you cannot imagine, not to mention the incredible “fun” workout to improve your health. The rewards will be mental, physical, and spiritual, and it is all free. Where else can you find a more appealing offer in this day and time??
The photo was taken approaching the finish line at the Frosty 25K & 50K Trail Run at Salem Lake in Winston Salem, NC.