Trail runs, especially the long, hard ones, are all about what happens during the in-between spaces, from the exciting point of departure to the desperate moment of return. Tales from the trail are experiences that bring together adventurers of every pace, like ghost stories around a mesmerizing campfire. The effect of both is much the same: exhilarating, terrifying, some wishing they could leave, others leaning in for more.
Sunday morning was an orientation run for Canadian River Valley Revenge… in the worst winter conditions we’ve ever seen. I’d been on a few runs the week prior, embedding thistles in unmentionable places and bouncing shrieks and giggles off cliffs as I skidded and slid on frozen toothpaste trails. Knowing the crazy conditions, we expected an attendance of 20 runners with a death wish. Fifty people showed up. Fifty. Dang. Introductions included a short legal prequel about running at their own peril, don’t sue us, if you fall over the river’s edge, tuck and roll. Oh, and Have Fun!
Off I head to the woods to meet some friends at a pop-up aid station. The wide, non-technical section to our spot is virtually impossible to navigate, a sparkling spray of ice over hard packed snow. Beer Girl’s case of Kokanee makes a break for it on a hill and we chase 32 rolling cans through the forest. Camera Guy is eagerly waiting at location, lens poised to capture the slightest of running motions coming our way – I brought Starbucks! Add butter tarts, pop and Christmas tunes, it’s official. We’re a party on the trail. Unlike those sad bastards running it.
And here’s where the story about a difficult run on terrible trails becomes something altogether different and so much more. My eager crew waits expectantly at a point on the course where we know Suffering will have quietly joined the run, tripping some, leaving bruises on others, sucking the last vestiges of energy from most. I anticipate a steady stream of weary runners staggering out of the single track and grabbing a quick recovery before pressing on. Soldiers in battle, taking a swig from the canteen, wiping their faces with blood-smeared sleeves… onward! Victory is nigh!
Instead, the ones and twos and “I know you’s” have blended into a mix of packs of every pace, some familiar, others unknown, showing up with scrapes and stories and laughs and high fives, hanging out for ten minutes or more to pause and breathe and celebrate. Eventually, they are on their way again, chatter lively skipping along into the last torturous section, smiles keeping pace with every runner.
I am reminded that trails have no bad days. The trail experience is not so much about conditions as it is about adventures: a culmination of many moments, each one adding a log to make a blaze or stoking the fire to keep the flames glowing and warm, creating one story from many, crackling with excitement, throwing the occasional spark. Tales from the trail always burn more brightly together.
PC: Holschington Photography (top, bottom), Mark Jason Lacson Photography (middle)