‘Accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone’ is exactly right: Many trail runners see bad weather as a reason to get active outdoors, not as an excuse to stay indoors. They accept the variable weather and happily get soaked for the sake of an adventure on a muddy track.
‘The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast, the slow one now will later be fast’ definitely captures how some young guns starting an event look pityingly at an egg-shaped older woman starting off with a slow jog, who then easily passes them as they limp up a big hill near the end.
Although Bob may not have known about the many challenges of trails, he definitely knew about change. He knew that if you don’t manage change, it manages you.
All seasons of life (infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and beyond) are full of change. The truth is that life is about change. And shi(f)t happens, constantly!
Trail running offers you opportunities to become change-fit for the challenges of life, especially if you take your heart and mind with you and use each run as training to develop personal integrity.
Being change-fit involves putting the Serenity Prayer into practice: ‘Grant me the ability to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.’
Trail runners know that fighting elements you cannot change leads to failure, disappointment and possibly injury. Take the Vlakkenberg Mountain in Cape Town or Mavis Bank in Grahamstown, for example. These mountains are not going anywhere in a hurry – you cannot negotiate with those inclines. Complaining about how unfair it is that they are so steep will never get you anywhere and will only disempower you. Instead, graciously accept that you chose to run that trail, that you are responsible for your attitude and that you cannot alter the landscape just because you want to. Don’t resent the uphill for being – accept that trails have hills, some of which are very big, rough and hard.
Accept that the trail you are on has a big incline so that you can move on to the next stage: changing the things you can. Face the challenge: Lean into it, pace yourself and be courageous, knowing that getting to the top is going to be tough.
You can choose to pull out of a trail run at any time and sometimes there is legitimate reason to do so. Watch out for trail-hardened stubbornness, which makes you push on with grim-faced, white-knuckled determination when you probably should not. Finishing fast should never trump the real prize: wisdom born of disciplined training and careful strategy.
Life is like trail running: It has many awkward elements you can’t avoid and, if you try to do so, you will end up getting very lost and having to face additional painful challenges before coming back to face the one you’re trying to dodge. I know this lesson very well – the universe has flogged me with this truth several times.
We all have unpleasant and painful experiences. They’re not punishment; they are a normal part of life. Conquering such challenges requires acceptance, not resistance. When we accept their painful presence, we stop trying to change them and begin to work out what we can change – ourselves.
It takes courage and discipline to face an unavoidable dilemma. To deal with it properly, we have to either engage with it honestly or walk away (sometimes the better choice). It is much easier to whine about problems than to solve them.
When we accept a painful truth and face it with dignity, we are choosing to make changes. There is nothing more powerful on the trail of life than that.
Fellow trail fanatic, our sport comprises so much more than merely exercising in nature. It’s about exercising your nature – stretching it, disciplining it, challenging it and confronting it.
Trail running encourages growth in all aspects of your ever-changing life and trails can offer a library of resources about life. Running trails in all seasons prepares you to face all of your internal seasons. So, put down this magazine, pick up your shoes, get out there and conquer something that will take your life where you want it to go.