I have a lot of thoughts about how we, the people of the Sea to Sky corridor, identify ourselves.
A few months ago at the Red Bull 400, the race director told us to hoot and holler when he called out the sport category we most identify with. I definitely did not hoot and holler at mountain biking, rock climbing, triathlon, or Cross Fit. I wasn’t sure if I should maybe clap at trail running or track and field. It was confusing.
I like trail running. I’m training for a road race, so I spend a lot of time pounding the pavement. But do I really identify as a runner? Not really. In my mind, real trail runners are tackling ultras and hopping from one peak to another. A true track and field athlete trains on a track. With a coach. And striped shorts.
I have running shoes. I have trail running shoes. I even have a dorky looking fuel belt and a slick looking running vest! But am I really a runner?
This thought was crossing my mind a month ago as I made my way to Capra, a new trail running store that had recently opened conveniently close to my home. It was the inaugural women’s group trail running session, and 90% of me was excited to go, but 10% of me was wanting to turn on my heels and book it back home.
Here’s the thing: the Squamish trail running community is serious business, and I was concerned about literally eating dust as the other women flew by me on the trails. But, I’m a big girl, so I laced up those trail runners (were they too old? would I be judged for how dirty they are? or are they not dirty enough?) and went to the store.
Waiting around for those first few minutes was intimidating. Several of the women were discussing the upcoming Squamish 50, which many of them were registered to run. But once we started the actual run, everything fell into place. I kept up. I “power hiked” the uphills with everyone else and sped through the downhills faster than I would on my own. I discovered tons of new trails that I would have missed on my own, and I met some cool ladies who were not only accomplished trail runners, but mountain bikers and wind surfers and mothers and employees and regular people.
I’ve been running with the group when my schedule permits. Now that I’ve overcome the initial intimidation of just getting out there, the sport of trail running has actually become way less intimidating. I can keep up with these ultramarathoners — on a mellow fun run, but still! As it turns out, they also occasionally get nervous and feel inadequate. Apparently, you can feel those things and still be a trail runner. Good to know.
I’ve already got lofty goals set out for this year, but I’m excited about becoming a “real” trail runner next year — signing for some races, running more in the trails than on the road, and maybe even upgrading my shoes.
(On a somewhat related note, I really enjoyed this article about the marketing of action sports — and how by trying to be gnarlier, the industry is actually alienating the regular Joes like me. Maybe it’s not about going bigger and bigger — maybe it’s about enjoying the moments, the views, and the people you’re with. Nah… that won’t sell energy drinks!)