We run trails for all kinds of reasons. But the essence for me is encapsulated in Running Wild’s strap line “Run, Explore, Share”. No mention of “compete” or “win” or “personal best” in there.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love to compete – against others as well as against myself. And when injuries recently denied me the opportunity to chase down some important competitive goals that I had set for myself this year, I was frustrated as hell. But faced with the choice of never racing again or never going exploring again, I know exactly where I stand. Competition is merely the icing on the cake; the cake itself is made from two key ingredients – adventure and people.
This was really brought home to me on a recent road trip to the Bay of Plenty where over five days I enjoyed the company of a great bunch of keen trail hounds and discovered previously unknown (to me) tracks. There really is no better feeling than running some pristine bit of single track for the first time, especially if it’s a shared experience. No repeat journey over the same track, no matter how wonderful it is, is ever likely to recapture that sense of discovery and adventure that are at the core of the trail running experience.
This thought hit me time and time again as a group of 12 of us celebrated a 40th birthday with a run on a not-yet-officially-open bit of trail to the incomparable Hot Water Beach on Lake Tarawera. The knowledge that few runners had ever ventured along this route made it special, as did the crystal clear springs from which we drank and the stunning views of imposing Mt. Tarawera.
The next day I found myself in a car with the Young Ones – four fearsomely keen & fast trail runners, none of whom are even half my age. We had a start point in mind for our run (Lake Okataina Lodge) but on the way saw a sign marking the Western Okataina Walkway that gave us a 9km trail to follow to the lake instead of extra driving time. We stopped, slipped on our running shoes, and were off up the hill, fuelled by an enthusiasm that is born from running ‘virgin’ trail. The Young Ones cantered ahead but were good enough to stop every now and then to allow the Old Fart to catch up. Meantime I rejoiced in listening to their whooping and hollering as they attacked every downhill with a daring that I can only just remember. Their unbridled enthusiasm made for a special kind of shared experience.
Over the next 3 days my shoes led me to discover a new peak, some brilliant coastline north of Waihi Beach, and new trail deep in the Kaimai Ranges. At the end of the trip – despite my physio’s advice of not running for more than half an hour at a time – I had knocked out 99kms and 3,700m of ascent. But I resisted the urge to plod out another kilometre to make up the 100k, and I’m glad that I did, for at the end of the day it’s the experience that matters, not the stats. We should never lose sight of that.
See details of each run by following the links below:
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