It’s 6:30am and the sun is just peaking over the headland. The clouds are parting, opening up the day to a new beginning providing me with energy and an excited buzz. The feeling starts pulsating from the pit of my stomach, continuing to tingle through my skin.
Whilst tying the laces of my trail runners, I turn my iPod on full blast. The music gets me pumped up, giving me the extra boost and motivation to conquer my next run. I am now ready to hit the trails and breathe in the refreshing air deep into my lungs. There is nothing more liberating than being free of all thoughts and being present in the moment. This is my morning meditation leaving me inspired all day long.
Years ago, I never believed I would be hooked on trail running. One of my friends tried to convince me to join her to train for a 11 km road race. I told her she was insane to run 11km straight as I prefered the comfort of running on the treadmill and my gym classes.
Then it turned completely and I was hooked like a druggie looking for their next running high!
I fell in love with trail running when I first agreed to join my sister and her friends on a run around Centennial Park. I did not actively set my intention to achieve a particular pace or distance. Only at the end did I realise I had run 18 km with ease without counting down the moments until I had to stop. It left me on such a natural high. I got the Runners Bug!
The combination achieved through my normal intense training regime at the gym; incorporating cardio based workouts (treadmill, spin classes and body attack classes) along with strength based workouts (weights, yoga, and pilates) my fitness levels exceeded.
The bonus was that I loved every minute of my workouts. They did not feel daunting or a chore. I would and still wake up at 4:30am each morning energised and bounce out of bed to get ready for the gym during the week. I thrive on the energy, strength and endorphins that each workout gives me. I can honestly say that at those times I feel prettiest when I am sweating like a pig. Just doesn’t seem worth it if I’m not red in the face and my heart isn’t thumping in my chest.
The combination of cardio and strength based exercises increased my endurance and stamina. It is important to note that many people have the misconception that to increase endurance and stamina this involves only cardio activities. However, incorporating strength and stability exercises into your workout is essential for a runner. This builds your leg and core muscles, which together assists you to propel yourself further in each step you take while running to create a supportive base. Through having well-toned leg and core muscles the impact of the ground will be absorbed, protecting the joints. Your conditioned core will help prevent you from wiggling in your torso, keeping you upright and deflecting the energy, allowing you to run faster and sustain yourself on the utmost technical trails.
Trail running has now become a passion of mine. After my first 18 km I wanted to challenge and push myself beyond my comfort zone. In July 2014, I entered myself into the Winery Running Festival held in the Hunter Valley. I finished the half marathon as the 2nd female in my division at 1 hour and 42 minutes. I was stoked and utterly surprised as I hadn’t been training long-term and didn’t follow a strict training schedule like many marathon runners.
After my first race, I needed another challenge and self exploration to go beyond road racing now seeking out whichever trail I could find and navigate myself around. I quickly came accustomed with the idea that I would be covered in mud, dirt, and random tree branches in my hair. I truly embraced it, even wiping the blood off myself with my one or two falls during my trail runs, got up and kept on running. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
Through consistent training and taking on board crazy mixed terrains, I felt the buzz again to sign up for more a trail challenge. My first was the Half Marathon Jabulani Challenge in April this year through Kuring Gai National Park, coming 4th Place in my division finishing at 2 hours and 39 minutes.
Of course the running bug did not stay quiet for long. I signed up straight away for my second half marathon trail race, the Rafferty Coastal Run at Lake Macquarie, finishing 6th place in my division at 2 hours and 21 minutes.
Both courses were magnificent and so diverse. Taking on the combination of major ascents and descents, fire trails, road running, rainforest bushland, creek crossings, rock climbing, battling through the sea sprays and CONSTANT MUD!
These tested my awareness and technique to become one with the surrounding so that I wouldn’t land flat on my face. I reached a zone during my runs where I would focus on nothing else but the present which is so exhilarating and energizing.
Trail running has given me a new perspective on exercise, the way I view my body and life. Just being out in the wide open space; whether it be by the coast, up mountains and rocks, through the woods or over lakes there is nothing that can top the euphoric state that it bring in elevating your mood and self-esteem.
My excitement from my weekend runs and half marathons does not stem from the means to an end in losing weight or the thought of it as a tedious exercise. I have now embraced that part of who I am is a runner.
Through the consistent dedication and passion for my trail runs and other forms of exercising this is showing myself self-love. Physical movement does not benefit my external self, it improves my endurance, agility, strength, and has changed my mindset. I have become more self-aware, in-tune with my body, and more focused in all aspects of my life.
Trail running especially, can be very demanding on the mind, not just the body and you have to become strong enough in your mental discipline to overcome that pain threshold where your body is screaming at you but you know that physically you have it in your tank to run that extra KM. My constant self motivation to put on my sneakers and run on the cold when the warm bed is more tempting is because I aim to be the best version of myself.
I can say that every runner that I have met has such inner strength, passion and drive which is self-created and everyone should truly find joy in realizing that this is their choice and nothing in the world can make you feel more free and liberated. You become one with your body and more mindful in your everyday life.