The gods must be crazy when they invented the word ‘trail’. And they must have been crazier when they invented the words ‘trail run’.
Heck, I must have been the craziest of them all, when I decided to try what they meant, not knowing that I will be coming back for more!
With only four trail runs under my belt (and counting…) and a number of climbs up my spine, I may not be your best authority when it comes to this passion. But I will tell you my close encounters nonetheless – with no other than the stones, dirt roads, pits, hanging bridges, enormous roots, river crossings, boulders, slippery uphill, hungry cattle, ridges, leaping frogs, enchanted pathways, streams, fornicating crickets, tall grasses, wild horses, mammoth millipedes, and the mist as my witnesses. Seriously, I met them all.
Notwithstanding the heat that summer brings nor the flood, wind, and storms during the rainy season, ‘stubborn me’ still gets euphoric when hiking up a mountain or running through a trail. What is it about the trails that keep me coming back tirelessly? If not for the witnesses above, then it must be the absolute thrill that one gets from sheer exhaustion. Now where did I get that?
What is the first thing you must know before you go as crazy as the gods? Have yourself checked by the doctor – I mean it! And yes, include a visit to the psychiatrist while you’re at it because your decision to join a trail run or to go on a trek might be due to the need to forget a painful memory. So, just maybe, diverting it towards something more painful which could eventually become a lasting memory was what you might consider medicinal. Oh well, I believe that is one of the definitions of madness!
After the doctor’s appointment, it’s time to get the proper gear. The great thing about trails is you don’t have to care about how good you must look because by the end of the day you will all look alike!
Before you kiss that dirt, learn everything you need to know about the terrain. Will your running shoes hold enough pebbles from the river crossing? Will your CWX bear the cuts? Will your dri-fit top protect your arms from the thorns and the mosquitoes? Are you wearing enough sun block to keep you away from getting roasted? Or are you wearing too much that it stains your eyes and skin? Can your hydration pack provide enough liquids to last every 10 kilometers (or to last you through the hike up and back to the jump off site)? Are you bringing that garbage bag which can either be a trash bag or a raincoat? Or would you risk staining that new Columbia jacket so that you will look dashing for the lens?
Remember, the trail in itself is a test of survival. Not just endurance. Not just speed. Not just strategy. Most importantly, it is not Project Runway. It is being ‘self-contained’ – literally and figuratively.
After the shopping galore, the registration fee, the declaration of your craziness, and the physical and lingo training, the next best thing to do is to set your goal on the summit and the finish line and you’re all set! Be it a trail run or a trek, when it comes to the word ‘summit’, I may have different definitions from the next but this word is the only motivation that keeps me going. So, go get yourself your own happy thought before gearing up.
Oh, but wait, there’s more! Where are you going? What kind of terrain will you be getting yourself into? Will there be leeches? Mountain goats? Snakes? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scaring you away from the playgrounds, I’m just giving myself a head start *wink*. Seriously, whether they are just plain old plateaus or steep hills or rocky mountains or slippery peaks, each one has a smorgasbord of surprises – good and bad. Even the most experienced trail runners or mountaineers get lost, thus, a basic knowledge of trail signs still helps. Be sure to also check with the locals on what to expect because they are the best source of information when you’re talking about territory. Oops, did I just give away a secret?
Just when you thought that you had enough trail vocabulary to last a dayhike, you will never be ready unless you acclimatize. It may not be Mt. Everest or Kota Kinabalu but be prepared for the worst. When you’re not accustomed to the cold or the rainforest, hypothermia is your worst nightmare. Take it from me; I didn’t even realize what hit me when I was already sleepy. My acclimatization solution? Cold showers. As for the heat, our summers must be the worst there is. Getting into the sun in the middle of the day will give you an edge right away. I knew someone who even walked through it wearing dark tailored suits for 30 minutes in 36 degrees! Damn!
So there, I don’t want to keep you away from the trail with a lengthy piece when I know you’re already itching to be crazy. But before I end, let me leave you with these two advices: pack light and enjoy the sights. Race you to the top?