Last Updated on September 29, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Remember when you were little, how amazing it felt to just RUN? Across a field, through the woods, down hills and over roots, dipping and dodging tree branches, just feeling like you are flying? Never a chore, always pure fun…
Today, I felt that again. Today, I fell in love with trail running.
Bright and early this morning, I met up with local running friend Julie D (the one also going for the marathon maniac status by running Myrtle Beach and Umstead Trail marathons two weeks apart) and we drove the hour south to the Swamp Fox passage of the Palmetto Trail in Awendaw (I’d never heard of that town either ) SC. We figured that, even though here in the low-country of coastal South Carolina there is NOTHING to compare to the hills of Umstead, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to run some trails and work on our footing for the technical portions of the race.
After a few u-turns we found one of the state park parking lots and access to the trail. Sunny, high 30 degrees, and no wind. It was beautiful. Neither of us had a CLUE what to do, so we picked a direction and started running.
At first, we both commented on how we felt we were running really fast, only to look down at our Garmin’s and see a high 10 minute mile pace. I joked about the Big Foot special that I spent 2 full ours watching on the History Channel last night, and we came across a random pair of mittens scattered on the trail. Hmmm. The first few miles, I felt overly cautious with every single step I took. At one point, I hit a root on an angle and my ankle gave. I caught myself before I fell, and that immediate burning sensation gave me an instant flash back to warrior dash. While I instantly exclaimed “I’m alright!” , I was cursing like a sailor in my mind. Was this a stupid idea, the week before Myrtle Beach Marathon?
But as we ran on, I felt myself start to relax. The pace slowly crept up. The conversation flowed. The sunshine smiled upon us as we ran through clearings and over the bridges with an amazing view of the salt marshes and creeks. And I felt free. I would hardly call the run effortless, but at the same time, I felt like I was flying. There is something so amazing about running on a trail…your thought process is almost primal. There is no time to sit there and over-analyze your gait, strike, foot strike, breath. There’s no mindless shuffling along. It’s a constant dance on your feet, over rocks, around stumps, leaps over mud pits . It’s an entire body workout, ducking below stray branches, arms held out occasionally for balance. Running out here feels so NATURAL, like this is what my body was meant to do.
We ran and ran, occasionally taking a wrong turn to quickly find a dead end, and have to turn back around. Our 6 mile turn around point turned out to be an adventure in itself, as we were suddenly in a few backyards and next to a main road. Eventually we stumbled back to the trail, and headed back in the direction of the car. Paused for a few pictures (heh, fake action shots!)
Came across the trail of the Sasquatch (it’s too warm in SC for yeti’s)
Practically screamed when some mountain bikers came flying around the corner (first humans we encountered all day) , got down to sub8, then sub 7 minute miles for a minute (Garmin says fastest speed of the day was 6:08) and somehow wound back at the car at 10.5 miles…even though we turned around at 6. Who knows how that happened. We then proceeded to stand in the warm sunshine and say “THAT WAS FREAKING AWESOME!”
And you know what else was awesome? My Avia Avi Stoltz trail shoes. It’s always hit or miss when you get a new pair of shoes. These are probably the “heaviest” shoes I’ve worn in a year (at 10 oz) but I certainly didn’t feel it. They were perfect in every way. In addition, I felt ZERO foot pain, ZERO knee pain. I attribute most of that to the soft trail versus the harsh pavement, but the shoes absolutely helped.
This is something I absolutely, positively, 100% must do again, and again, and again (so, get ready GSRC/NMBRG, Julie and I vote for long-run-field trip!) The next time I’ll have a chance to trail run will be Umstead Marathon, and while I’m still certain it’s going to kick my a$$…I’m even more excited than I was before!
Happy Valentines day my friends, be sure to go out for a few miles and LOVE YOUR RUN!
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.