We are several days into the new year, but today’s a rest day, so I thought I would take the opportunity to share the amazing run that I experienced on January 1st. I’ve been training for one race or another for the past three years without taking more than a week off, so after making it through the Philadelphia Marathon in late November, I promised myself that I would take a break. Breaks don’t tend to agree with me, but I did fairly well, taking over a week off from any form of exercise, and then logging only 42 miles during the entire month of December.
I was planning to start back slowly the week after Christmas, with a few shorter weekly runs and a “long” run of just 5 miles over the weekend. I was invited, however, to join a new running group on Thursday for a mid-week trail run in the Wissahickon. I’ve been running in the Wissahickon for close to ten years, but I just began to explore the technical trails last summer. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to get out on those trails more, and so even though I knew I wasn’t quite trained for the hills or the distance, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
New Year’s Day dawned sunny, but cold. I bundled myself up in multiple layers and then headed out to meet my group. I’m always a bit reserved around new people, but as I’ve found in the past, it’s always easier for me to feel comfortable around people when we are running together. We set off for a short 5 minute warm-up on the flat path before veering off to our first technical trail. Unfortunately for me, the first trail we picked had a killer hill, and I quickly began to feel my lack of conditioning. Luckily, the hill was steep enough that the entire group resorted to walking at some point, and I was able to eventually catch up.
It took me about two miles to settle into a good rhythm, but even when I was struggling to maintain my pace, I was enjoying myself. That is the largest benefit that I have found to trail running – it tends to be fun even when it’s hard. The women that I was running with were a great group, and I enjoyed listening to the conversations around me, and occasionally chiming in with a few thoughts of my own. Throughout the run, I routinely dropped back from the group on the uphill sections, but I was able to maintain the pace, and even pick up some speed on the downhills. Running downhill on trails can be quite a challenge, and so this was one place where my experience and my familiarity with the Wissahickon really came in handy. We finished the run right around the 7 mile mark. I felt all kinds of soreness over the next two days, but in the best possible way. I’ve always loved feeling a bit sore when I know that it has come from a good workout. I’m looking forward to getting my conditioning back up to par, in the hopes that I can join my new friends on the trails again real soon!