I have been a runner all my adult life. I am not a very consistent runner. I have times when I run 5 times a week and then I have a couple of weeks when I do not run at all. But running is still the sport that I love and can easily do wherever I am and without the necessity of other people or any additional equipment.
Part of why I love running is that I love nature and being outside. Even though I am a member of a fitness club, I much rather go on a run in the rain than into the stinky and smelly gym (no it’s not that bad I know) to go to a yoga class or train with weights. What I also like about running is that when I feel like it, I can power myself out. I can run until my body screams, and my brain stops working. And there are times when this kind of cleaning up my boy and mind is just what I need.
Even though I live in a big city, I do not run along streets. Since I live near a lake (it’s actually three lakes), my running routine for ages has been running around that lake. I know almost every step on that run. I can tell you exactly how fast I was a few days back, and I instantly know if my run is fast or slow today. If I want to go on a longer run, I usually simply either add another round around the lake – or another lake to the run.
But over the last couple of years, I brought more nature into my running. I started varying my runs, driving to a river and simply running alongside the river for about half the time I planned to run and then turning back, watching birds and beavers while I go along. I also started taking our dog (Fellow the Newfoundland Dog) and invented our own special type of workout consisting of running patches and body weight training while Fellow goes for a swim.
Even better, I started running trails in Bavarian mountains, where our family has an old farmhouse which is our second home.
Naturally, I have been running some moderate trails in the vicinity of that house in Bavaria for the past years whenever I visited for a little vacation. But I always ran the same round – as I did in Berlin.
And then two things happened: I ran my first real trail more or less by accident – and Marina trained for the Berlin marathon last year.
My first real trail run was caused by our dog. Which at that time was an old brown Newfoundland Dog. We took the dog on a hike and simply underestimated the impact of warm summer weather on an aging giant dog. We had to accept defeat in the middle of the hike because it would not have been fair for the dog to go on. We were far away from the car or home. Luckily enough we were near a little mountain Cafe, where Jonathan and Marina could slowly go with the dog, take a long break and wait for me to get the car and fetch them.
It fell on me to run home to get the car for the simple reason I was the one that knows the area best and was sure not to get lost on my way home. I was still two mountain peaks and about 12km away from home and the car. It was a warm summer day, and I was lucky to wear real good shoes (same brand I still buy all my trail running shoes from). I did not want the others to have to wait too long, so I tried to go as fast as I could, running up and down those mountain peaks, along a lake and another 1.5 km to reach home – and the car.
And I actually had fun doing it. It felt awesome. When I finally arrived at the Cafe, our dog had recovered, he had taken a bath in a muddy puddle to cool down and was happy to see me.
Last year when Marina started to train for the marathon, we all started to do a lot of running, trying out new trails around our family house in the Bavarian mountains. Cross country skiing trails actually make perfect running trails in summer. And while I am still fighting with running uphill, I love these trails. You can look over the surrounding mountains, you rarely meet anyone on the trails, and by choosing different trails once in a while or simply choosing to go an extra mile, you get to know the nature more than ever before.
Since we started running more of these trails, all my running has totally changed. I do not let myself get stopped by any kind of weather. I have run in heavy rain, through knee-deep snow, on icy paths, and through muddy puddles. I take our (still very young) Newfoundland Dog Fellow on many runs – he is a much faster runner in winter through the snow than I am. In summer I take him along the river or lake and do some strength training while he goes swimming – or even take a break for a swim myself.
Even in Berlin, my running habits have totally changed. Instead of running the same round around the lake or lakes, I am now much more flexible with the trails I choose: I run through the forest, alongside the river Havel in Berlin, change the lakes I run – and plan to do some trails outside of Berlin, just for the fun of it. When I visited a friend in a little village one hour outside of Berlin last weekend, the first thing she said was: You should have brought your running gear and tried that trail starting right in front of the house. I will sure do that one of the next times I visit her.
I do not look at my speed so much as before, much rather I go for longer runs. Ever since I started using a fitness tracker, going my usual round also meant, that I knew exactly how fast I was yesterday and new instantly if I was fast or slow today. Running on trails, up and down hills and changing routes also means, that I cannot compare my speed so much. How am I to know if today’s run includes more climbing than yesterday’s? Or if the surface of the trail simply is more difficult to run and slows me down?
And still, overall, I feel a lot fitter – and I think I look it, too.
And there is a new competitiveness about my running: not all about speed, but about mastering new territory or new weather conditions: Running through knee-deep powder snow was the hardest I ever did – and one of the most beautiful runs I ever experienced and one of the slowest runs I ever did.
If you are getting bored with the same running routine day in day out – why not try trail running and add some new trails and experiences to your routine?
(Note on the side: You need proper running shoes for trail running.)