Whether social, physical or psychological, the rewards of trail running extend far beyond that initial warming kick of endorphins.
For a sport that, more often than not, relies on the individual – rather than a coordinated team performance – there is a refreshing sense of camaraderie that brings people together from all walks of life. One that many other sports struggle to match.
Those who take to the natural landscape with ease tend to be pursuing more than a good run, on a good trail. Trail runners value their sport on a deeper level. It means like-minded people, it means social support, it means community.
But where did this better together mindset emerge from?
One answer may lie in our ancestry. According to evolutionary biologist, Daniel E. Lieberman, humans are ready built endurance runners – and it’s only since the 20th Century that this has changed. Our nomadic, hunter ancestors would run together across immense distances – side-by-side with their family and other tribe members.
And yet, we still think there’s more to it than that.
So we thought it was worth asking some amateur trail blazers and running guides what their take on the subject is…
Clair Morris, And We Run:
“Because you have to be pretty insane to run up and down mountains in the freezing cold for fun. And that means a lot of people won’t ‘get it’, so it’s good to spend time with the ones that do.
The community is great. Probably one of the most supportive sports you can be a part of. I mean, it is hardly spectator-friendly. If you want to see what’s going on you have to get out in the cold and wet, climb halfway up a mountain and just wait for someone to run past.
You don’t do it if you’re half-hearted, and passion breeds community spirit. “Ok, this is shit, but at least we are all in it together”.
There’s respect for each other. The fact that you’ve had the courage to try, earns you a certain amount of respect. So the community can be a little insular. But I suppose, that only makes it stronger.
It’s also one of the only sports where it is totally acceptable to drink a couple of pints straight after a run!”
Ceri Rees, Wild Running:
“Unlike many sports with their ascribed value systems and hierarchies – trail running can be exactly what you want it to be.
It’s a sport which appeals to people from right across the age, gender and social class spectrum. Trail runners can be ex footballers, rugby players, track athletes, swimmers or just simply first timers who get bored running circuits of their local park.
In my experience the group or pack experience provides the usually solitary souls the chance to come out of themselves. I can run all day and bivouac beneath the stars, yet somehow never feel alone. The group and community I have found along the way is an added bonus, as I no longer have to feel like a lone wolf!”
Simon James, Run the Wild:
“Running is often seen as a loner sport, as unlike many other sports such as football it’s rarely performed in a team. From 100 metre sprints to marathons, it really is every man or woman for themselves. Trail running is different though.
Most participants just want to finish the race and are not necessarily certain they can, especially if it is a long or technical course. Every trail runner during a race or indeed a running holiday at some point will go through a tough patch physically, mentally or emotionally, often all three!
Trail runners find themselves more often than not, competing against the event and not the other runners. Finding solace, inspiration, advice and strength from fellow competitors, and embracing their own demons – they overcome obstacles such as distance and route finding together and so it becomes not just a personal adventure, but a shared one.
Runners choose to step away from the race environment and truly experience running adventures as a team with a common goal in mind, just as mankind has done since we first able to run.”
Emma Puzylo, Northwich Running Club:
“There’s a growing desire to get outside and do something, without judgement or pressure and with the support of friends. Many of us suffer with a lack of motivation when it comes to getting out of the front door, especially in the dark and dreary months, so setting up a group of like-minded, all-ability runners where there are no expectations, no judgements and you can get all of the help and support that you need seems like the natural thing to do.
The ethos of NRC is that we really are all abilities, everyone is wanted, looked after, and no one is ever left behind.
From those dark February nights where 3 or 4 of us went out, we now have over 300 members of the club, and every single person knows that we are there to support them whether it be through injury, stress at work, or the latest heartbreak.
All of our team of Leaders and Coaches are volunteers, and that takes a special type of person. When you get a pat on the back or kind words of thanks after a good run shows the team spirit, and encourages you to come back. Sometimes just getting outside for a run with your mates can resolve the most stressful days. You can talk out a lot of things when you’re running for an hour! And we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Food for thought…
Powerful words – and definitely something to take on board if you’re thinking about taking up trail running in the near future.
We’ll finish up with this quote from Aliza Lapierre. It’s one that we’ve used previously, but it continues to speak volumes for us and really helps to give a glimpse into the trail running ethos of no man left behind…
“My experiences of camaraderie with the females that I was “competing” against only continued to grow. Comments like “We can do this together” “You’re running strong girl, keep it up” and “It’s a gift to share miles with you,” were given and received. All of these spoken remarks and the perceived mutual respect for one another really warmed my heart and fueled my passion for our sport.”
Happy running guys!