Sports Training

How Trail Running Made My Long Run Fun Again

Trail running in North Shore Oahu Hawaii with Jaci, Jess and Tom

BRRRRRRR!  BRRRRRR!  BRRRRRR!

It’s not even 4am and my alarm has never been more obnoxious to basically-a-hibernating-bear Mr. Harbin as he groggily turns it off and half-hands, half-drops my iPhone in my general direction.  I hop out of bed and my brain fog lifts almost as soon as my feet hit the floor and I feel my way to navigate the dark bedroom.  I grab a quick swig of water as I mindlessly pull on the running shorts and the shirt I laid out the night before and then Rio and I are out the door.

It’s long run day.

That’s my life every Sunday morning.  Up and at it before the sun comes up to avoid the Hawaii heat.  Some variation of the same main route that has one big hill, two bike paths and more traffic lights than I would like.  It can get a little tedious and sometimes I find it difficult to motivate myself, even if I do get to train in paradise.  Although in my defense, running next to the ocean isn’t the same if you can’t really see it. Ya know, because it’s freaking dark at 4am.

If you’re a runner, I’m sure you’ve been there.  Same-ish time, same-ish place.  So how do you get the thrill of the long run back?  The euphoria of running down the road, finally maintaining your target pace, lost in enjoyment and time flying by?

Maybe you try something new.

Jacqueline Harbin trail running mud

Sometimes you need war paint.

Last Sunday my alarm didn’t go off until 4:30am and instead of heading down to the bottom floor of my building and starting on the same route, I jumped in our trusty Jeep and drove an hour to North Shore to meet Jess and Tom for something I used to do all the time:  hit the trails.  Somewhere halfway up a mountain there’s a park that has miles and miles of trails.  From the “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” entrance to the first two miles being uphill to the somewhat totally questionable trail markers, I’m glad I went with someone who had some working knowledge of the paths.  It’s not the Maine portion of the Appalachian Trail but it’s definitely possible to get turned around and end up with twice the mileage you were shooting for.

Trail Running GPS Track Map in North Shore Hawaii

10.7 miles of trails – you can see how it might be easy to get turned around!

But something magical happened.  The miles racked up without me even noticing.  It was partially the fact that I had someone to talk to, to laugh and joke around with and partially the fact that I had to concentrate on where I put my feet.  One of the best (and worst) things about the long run is that it’s almost hypnotizing.  You can forget what you’re doing and that can make both the time and the miles drag on.  Trail running forces you to focus due to technical terrain, potentially slick, muddy portions and low-hanging branches that would like nothing more than to smack you in the face.  Eight miles in, we found the bunker and were taking in an incredible view of the North Shore.

North Shore panoramic view on Oahu, Hawaii

The view is always worth the work.

On top of making you pay attention, trail running offers a different challenge – not only will it strengthen your feet and ankles due to the terrain, it offers a chance to tackle hills in a way that you don’t normally find on paved roads.  Rolling trails are interspersed with steep sections, both up and down, as well as hairpin turns.  It’s exciting.

Redheaded Racing Twins Jaci and Jessica take on Hawaii's North Shore Trails

When you plan to race Otillo, you train like it – trail running attached to each other isn’t near as difficult as you might think!

It’s even more exciting when you’re tied to one another with 550 cord.  Check back soon to see what that craziness is about!

The take-home point is to get out of your routine.  Stop doing the exact same thing week in and week out – consistency is huge but boredom is the killer of motivation.  Try out a completely new route.  Embrace the trails and see how muddy you can get.  Remember why you started running in the first place.  We’re never too old to enjoy ourselves and have a little fun.  Don’t forget that.

run fast and free

Major thank you to Tom and Jess for inviting me along, bringing water, slowing down (woah bear!) and taking photos.  Much love.

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