Welcome to Wednesday Word, a weekly linkup for everyone, not just health and fitness bloggers. Each Wednesday you will have a single word prompt to write about. Let your imagination run free and share with your readers your interpretation of that word, or simply use it as inspiration for your post. Today’s word is esoteric (inspired by Mo)… I’d love to have you link up, and if you do, please remember to follow my six simple rules.
Only taught to or understood by members of a special group;
Hard to understand;
Limited to a small number of people
Back when I started racing seriously in the late 90’s, trail running was somewhat of an esoteric alternative to hiking. I enjoyed running road races, and whenever the opportunity arose I loved heading out on a hike on the beautiful trails of Virginia, Utah, and Wyoming; but running on those trails? It sounded dangerous and a much more difficult way to get to the top of the mountain.
While training for my first marathon my friend Miles put the bug in my ear that I should consider running the JFK 50-Miler with him a month after my marathon. Intrigued, I asked for details and learned that the first seventeen miles of the race would be on the Appalachian Trail and the next twenty-six miles would be run on the C&O Canal before turning onto roads for the final miles. Hmmm, seventeen hilly, root and rock covered miles followed by a flat dirt trail that had the potential to be a muddy mess if we had rain leading up to the race, and only seven miles on smooth and even asphalt…
Prior to getting to know Miles better during the months leading up to my marathon, I’d never heard of a trail race nor an ultra marathon. Both were quite esoteric in the road racing community, but were gaining ground in the ultra community. Miles hadn’t steered me wrong as he coached me toward a BQ at my first marathon just a month before the JFK 50-Miler, so with complete confidence, I was there next to him in the dark at the starting line about to embark on the race of my lifetime.
During the Appalachian Trail portion of the race, I spent my entire time looking at the heels of the runner in front of me watching for rocks, roots, and the sudden twist of an ankle while anticipating where my next step would land. I made it off the trail in one piece, albeit with an inflamed IT band, and hit the dry C&O Canal thrilled for more relaxed running conditions.
Other than for a couple of old rail bed marathons I ran, there were many years between my first and and my next true trail run – partially because I wasn’t seeking out trail races, but also because trail running hadn’t caught on in our area like it has today. Below are my trail races and runs that I’ve recapped:
- November 1997 – JFK 50-Miler
- November 1998 – North Central Trail Marathon – rail bed
- April 2007 – Virginia Creeper Marathon – rail bed
- June 2010 – North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon
- April 2014 – Ex2Adventures Ten Miler at Fountainhead Park
- May 2014 – Great Fall Park
- July 2014 – Hungry Mother State Park
- October 2014 – Molly’s Knob at Hungry Mother State Park
- November 2014 – McAfee Knob
- March 2015 – Appalachian Trail to Angel’s Rest
- April 2015 – Algonkian Regional Park
- May 2015 – Burke Lake Trail
- May 2015 – Riverbend Park Trail Along The Potomac River
- June 2015 – Lake Fairfax Trail
- June 2015 – Ragnar Trail Appalachians WV
- April 2016 – Ragnar Trail Richmond Ultra
- October 2016 – Pandapas Pond
- October 2016 – Cascade Falls
As I mentioned, in recent years trail running has picked up in popularity, and for good reason. Running trails offers:
- Compacted dirt which is more forgiving on the joints
- Amazing views
- Fantastic photo opportunities
- More explosive color during the changing seasons
- Friendlier and more laid back fellow trail users
- Opportunities to see wildlife
- Fewer or no road crossings
- Fresher air
- Shade and cooler temperatures
- A chance to enjoy nature
As more and more runners realize the many benefits and joys of running through forests fields, streams, and to the tops of mountains, trail running will gain even more popularity. I think it’s fair to say that today trail running is anything but esoteric…
What esoteric activities do you enjoy?
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Next Wednesday’s Word: Determination