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Trails: More Than Just Dirt.

09 Sep 15
Heidi Kumm
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While I’m here in Switzerland I’ll be spending a lot of time on the trails. There will be plenty of day hikes and long runs, just because I can. Trails will become a huge part of this little adventure for a few reasons — they are cheap, they take you to amazing views, they make me incredibly happy and they bring people together. The first two a pretty obvious, so when REI asked me to share what trails meant to me I wanted to share the effects dirty single track has had on my life!

I’m good at planning, I swear. People just aren’t very good at following my plans. This was obvious when my mom wandered off to “explore the neighborhood” as everyone else was piling into the car for a short drive to a local Steamboat Springs trailhead. A few deep breaths and exasperated sighs later we had all piled into my car – myself, my mom, Mary, Katie and Jeremy. On a warm day it was a tight squeeze, especially for our strong, sarcastic personalities. By the time we drove the 10 minutes to the Fish Creek Falls trailhead, I was ready to throw everyone over the falls.

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Luckily, we had to hike to the top of falls before I could follow through with any of my threats. And my still non-existent criminal record is proof that trails are therapeutic and quite possibly life saving.

We spread out along the trail and took in the world around us. Children were running ahead of their parents, birds were chirping overhead and the river was rushing below. We started with the easiest hike up to the overlook. Katie was sharing dog grooming stories with Jeremy, my mom and Mary had exploded a soda and were giggling uncontrollably and I took a step back from being a planner and just let life happen.

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This is why trails are important to me. They always become exactly the reality check I need.

After a few obligatory photos on the overlook of the falls we headed down to the bridge and up the trail on the other side. By now, we were all together, back to being friends joking, laughing, tripping and sweating together.

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I casually pointed to a chair-sized rock and said “I think I remember sitting on that rock to whine…” to which Jeremy replied “and that one, and that one, and…” as he pointed out the large rocks lining the trail ahead of us.

Less than 10 months earlier Jeremy and I were on this trail under very different circumstances. I was about 45 miles into my first 100 mile foot-race and Jeremy was my [very patient] pacer. The first 45 miles of the race weren’t easy but I had kept my head in the game and had been happy, smiley and optimistic at every aid station.

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Within a mile of picking up Jeremy as my pacer, things changed. I started crashing, hard. Rather than listen to his advice [take in some caffeine + calories] I had opted to sit on rocks and whine about how hard life was.Eventually I gave in and sucked down Jeremy’s highly caffeinated concoction…problem solved, my game face was back. I spent the rest of my race trusting Jeremy, he clearly knew a thing or two about running ultras.

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I explained all of this to my mom as we hiked up along the falls. She was not surprised. She had a lot of first hand experience dealing with my intense stubborn tendencies. But more importantly, she was there, on the trail I had raced up and down during the longest race of my life.

She was experiencing a little bit of what I saw and felt while I was out there running the Run, Rabbit, Run 100M. During the race I had hiked up this trail, with my mom I was hiking up this trail. She was finally able to see and understand a little bit about the why and how of my ultra marathons. For that moment, we were on the same page.

This is another reason trails are so important to me. They bring everyone together, on a level playing field.

What do trails mean to me? Trails are so much more than just dirt, rocks and roots. They snake through the wilderness and cities, giving us all an excuse to get outside, take a deep breath and just be. They offer up silence for a solo trail runner or can be the source of many conversations for a group of hikers. Regardless of what you think you want from a trail, they are always there waiting to give you what you actually need — time away from the busy reality of life.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in partnership with REI. Looking for inspiration? Check out their #EveryTrailConnects hashtag on Instagram.

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