When I first moved to San Antonio, Texas, I’d just started to run on trails. I loved it. I wanted to meet and run with other trail runners. I found a listserv for an Austin-based running group. (I am old; This was a long time ago.) Folks would post which trailheads they were meeting up at and say things like, “All paces welcome.” “No drop run. We’ll wait for you.” I really wanted to join them. In fact, I was kind of desperate to make like-minded friends. But I decided I wasn’t fit enough to run with these runners. I thought I was too slow and not experienced enough. I thought I should probably train more before I took the leap.
Ultimately, I spent the year running by myself mostly on the roads. And then, one day, a fellow in San Antonio posted that he was planning to run on trails that were pretty close to my house. It felt like a now-or-never moment. I sent him a note and we planned to meet up early Saturday morning. I worried the entire week, and I’m pretty sure I vomited before I left the house Saturday. I certainly felt like vomiting on the run itself. The trails were rugged, it was hot, I had a pack that didn’t quite fit, and I had to work hard. It was the most fun I had had running in over a year.
It turned out that I had been fit enough all along to go on these trail runs with the local group. I was nowhere near the fastest runner in the group, but I was also not the slowest. Though, no one would have cared if I had been the slowest. Your value on a trail run usually has less to do with your speed and more to do with your ability to participate in the conversation that’s happening.
When trail runners post an open invitation to a run and say “all paces welcome,” they mean it. A “no-drop run” is a way to keep a group with different paces together. Everybody runs their own pace, and the folks in the lead wait at intersections and turns, so everybody can group up again and no one gets lost.
I wish I hadn’t waited a year to try to achieve some perfect level of fitness before I made the plunge to start having trail running adventures. No matter how fit I got, running on trails was never really going to be easy for me, but it was a fun kind of hard. I also wish I’d understood earlier that how quickly I was able to move through the natural world on trails was secondary to just being out there with like-minded folks.
If you’re worried you’re not fit enough for our trips. Stop worrying and send us a note. You’re likely more than ready.