Seeing a trail run through a newcomer’s eyes

Madison, Traci and I after Saturday's 5.75-mile trail run.

Madison, Traci and I after Saturday’s 5.75-mile trail run.

I’ve been suffering this year from periodic bouts of running angst — which I’m not going to bore you with here, other than to say it probably stems from not having a clear goal right now.

Yes, I’ve won a couple of (very small) age-group races. But I haven’t raced much, in part because I haven’t really had anybody to race with lately. My kids just aren’t as into running as they used to be, and my primary running partner, my sister, doesn’t like racing all that much.

So imagine how cool it was to show up for Saturday’s trail run and see that my 17-year-old niece, Madison, was joining us.

She’s been a swimmer, volleyball player and tennis player, but hasn’t run much in the past. A couple of years ago when she ran with us she struggled a bit on a 3-miler, so we weren’t sure how she’d do on the full loop of Trail 5, which is just under 6 miles. But she kept up, and every time we asked if she wanted to take a short cut back, she said no. She didn’t appear to be struggling. Unlike her mom, who begins to sweat if you even mention the word, she was as dry as an antiperspirant commercial.

By the time we got to the bison habitat about 2/3 of the way through, it became clear Madison intended to finish the loop with us.

Something else became clear as well: At some point this run had become less about pandering to a kid, both in terms of the pace and conversation, and more like simply having another runner along.

“It feels like we’re running in a pack,” my sister said. “This is fun.”

And it was. As much as I’ve appreciated running with my sister the last six years, it felt good to have company along.

It also gave us a new appreciation for the beauty of the trail, seeing it through a newbie’s eyes. Madison said it reminded her of the Smoky Mountains, only without the hills, and I knew what she meant. On some level it was reminiscent of  our family hikes in Tennessee.

Though Ouabache doesn’t have any spectacular water falls or breathtaking mountain views – it’s pretty low in prestige when stacked up against even the other Indiana state parks – anytime you can run several miles through woods on a crisp autumn day, you tap into that natural beauty that people drive for hours to experience on a vacation.

Add the runner’s high to that nature fix, and you’ve got pure bliss.

It doesn’t last the whole run, just a few seconds at a time. But it was cool to remember how special trial running can be — and to help someone else experience it for the first time.

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