Sunday morning, for the first time in more than year, I found myself once again at a race starting line. My head was still a little foggy after a fantastic meal al fresco at Morgan & Co., and the impromptu RV dance party that followed, the previous evening, but the familiar nervous excitement of an organized run brought my mind to join my body. I was ready.
This was my first time running this particular race, the Froggy Five, a 5 mile long trail run through the beauty of Dippikill. It was a very small group of participants, the trail was described as well marked, and everyone was masked, which made for an ideal situation during these odd times. The organizers of the event, the Albany Running Exchange, really did an exceptional job putting together a race that felt safe and supported during a time when many people feel a distinct lack of either of those emotions in their everyday lives.
The course was promised to be challenging with the mid 3.5 miles described as technical and difficult, but the race opened gently with a nice warmup on both flat and downhill paths. We reentered the woods after a short stretch on the dirt road and were immediately captivated by the scenery. The ground was soft underfoot, a combination of moss and pine needles, and the air was fragrant from the forest of evergreens we were traversing. As we rounded a corner, my breath was taken by grasses of the lightest imaginable shade of green which literally were glowing from a combination of residual morning rain and sunbeams. Spectacular.
Trail runs are special. There’s a sense of euphoria that comes from scrambling up and down rocks and across bridges which bounce in echo of a runner’s footfalls. I hope I will always feel a sense of childlike wonder at trees shading my path and the barely perceptible movement of the creatures who are sharing their home momentarily with Lycra clad interlopers. It truly is magical.
Magical, however, should not be confused with easy or lacking in effort. Trails are often unforgiving and the choice between focusing one’s eyes on the path immediately to come and glancing further ahead, can come with consequences. Trust me, in an instant a lack of attention can result in injury. When my ankle rolled at about the midway point of the race and I went down, I was fortunate to land (gracefully!) on my right arm and shoulder without too much damage. Just a flesh wound and a few bruises which promise to color in prettily over the next couple of days.
One of my favorite parts of a trail run, or even a hike, is the dramatic reveal of an unexpected panoramic view. One minute you’re surrounded by greenery and then a moment later, mountains and distant waterways steal your senses. It’s absolutely incredible, especially in our beautiful state.
My favorite part of this particular course was towards the end, when I knew my ankle was going to cooperate to allow me to finish. There were a series of floating wooden bridges, that spanned pools of water filled with blooming lily pads, to be crossed. As my foot landed on the first bridge, the responding sway of the wooden planks caused by my body made me giggle. I felt like a kid again – awed, amused and completely charmed by nature and my place within it. This is why I love trail running.
I‘ve missed moments like this. Thanks for the reminder, ARE, that eating dirt while leaping tiny toads on the trail beats kissing frogs any day of the week.