Recently I renewed my previous obsession with reading Appalachian Trail thru hiker memoirs. Inspired, I decided it was time to step way outside of my comfort zone and do a bit of trail running. Yesterday, after work, I logged just shy of 2.5 miles on the trails. The terrain was a surprise, my shoes were completely wrong, and I had a great time.
There are several short trails at Riverbend Park, and I decided to try out the Heritage Trail for my first go. According to the map, it followed the Potomac pretty closely, so I figured it would be fairly flat. While that turned out to be true, I was totally taken by surprise by the surface I was running on. I’m a suburban girl, through and through. My usual bike trail is a paved rail conversion. One time I thought I saw a snake, but once I got closer it turned out to be a bit of black garden hose. Imagine my shock when the small rocks and packed dirt I was running on suddenly turned into a narrow passage of tree roots and pointed rocks that came up to my knees. I slowed to a walk, used my hands at times to get over the largest rocks, and kept my eyes peeled for the next green blaze marking the trail.
Speaking of those pointed rocks...ouch! I love my Vivobarefoot Stealth shoes. They’re soft as slippers and have incredible ground feel, but that also means you can feel everything. And not in a cool, “wow, I can feel every tree root and adjust my stride accordingly on the fly” way. More of an “yeouch, that was a super sharp rock and I think my ankle is going to collapse at any moment” kind of way. In the first few minutes of my run, I considered heading right back to the car, thinking I really didn’t want to deal with being jabbed in the foot every few seconds. Then the surface suddenly changed into packed dirt, and it was smooth sailing for a bit, and I was starting to have fun.
I never thought I was going to be a trail fan. Bugs are gross, I’m scared of snakes, and I just didn’t see what the big deal was. 2.5 miles on a flat and easy trail, and I’m ready for more. I liked running somewhere new. The trees were so nice, and there was no exhaust or traffic noise. Best of all, I just ran. No constant watch checking, too busy with watching my footing to get caught up in the noise of my head, and the scenery was gorgeous. Just me and nature. I never would have thought it. Get me some trail shoes, show me the way to the parks, and let’s get out there and breathe some real fresh air!