Entering trail events has seemed less appealing to me lately. Or perhaps another form or type of trail running has been calling my name just a little louder. By no means am I an experienced trail/ultra runner. I have only entered 3 events of an ultra distance so some might think I am being a little hasty or maybe impatient or even disrespectful to the sport. In fact it’s the total opposite. There is so much more to the world of ultra and trail running than events alone. This is where the lure of freedom knocks on my door. Some call it adventure running. Others call it a running expedition. I like to call it ‘freedom running’.
Most trail events are great! I have absolutely loved every single one I have entered so far no matter what the distance. Everything is organised logistically for you i.e. maps, course, drop bags, aid stations. They are relatively safe. There is always a great community of people involved around these events and you get time to catch up with people you might rarely see outside this event environment. You get to run with people who love trail running! You get to let yourself be enveloped by the hype of the event – those butterflies in the stomach the week before and excitement during the days leading up to the race. The buzz of the start line and anticipation of what lies ahead. If you are lucky you get a crew who can lift your spirits just by seeing them. The cheers from supporters along the way, complete strangers yelling at the top of their lungs for you. The final few kms and realisation you are going to finish. The release, the complete engulfment of emotions when crossing the line. Completing a trail race and more so a trail ultra is an amazing experience.
And sometimes I don’t want any of that. Does that sound crazy? Or maybe selfish? More and more often of late I have had a desire to just go out and run. But not just a 10 km loop near home. I want to run far. I want to run in isolated places. I want to run in difficult terrain. And I don’t mind doing it by myself. In fact sometimes I would prefer it. I don’t want a fuss and I’d rather only a couple of people knowing about what I was doing.
This attraction to what I call ‘freedom running’ is something that has been slowly gathering momentum inside me. I have always loved planning my runs – the longer and more complicated the better. Right now (
all going to plan) I am plotting a long technical run this weekend (things didn’t go to plan so now next weekend). Not just a normal long run as well – an 8+ hour mission. I have only told a couple of people. There is no hype. There is no support. There will be no queue to the toilet at the start line. I have to plan everything and take into account things like hydration capacity, nutrition, weather and gear. I have to plot my route carefully and strategically. All responsibility lies with me. I can take as many photos as I like and really connect with the environment. And I love all of it!
So I wonder why myself and most likely many others are drawn to this idea of ‘freedom running’. Is it the fact there is no pressure from others to perform and get a good time? Is it the planning and self supportive aspect that we enjoy? Is it the idea of solitude? Is it the sense of adventure and real risk? Is the the fact it’s just you, and the trail?
I will continue to enter events as they are a lot of fun. Critical experience can be gained and it’s a chance to push yourself a bit harder and perhaps right to the edge. However I am also going to go paddling in the inviting waters of ‘freedom running’ a little more. I am intrigued. Let’s see what’s out there for us.