It was 9 degrees, 7am, I’d driven an hour and a half to a trailhead deep in the middle of nowhere for my first ever trail event with a nearby running club. I was shivering, from cold, or nerves or both. Everyone else seemed to know each other. They were gearing up and looking fierce, and I felt completely out of my element. I felt like a fraud. I didn’t belong here, among all these “trail racers”. They could probably all tell already that I had no business being there.
We gathered at the start for a course briefing. Watch for the flags, turn at the rocks, cross the creek 7 times, and so on. How was I going to remember all of that. Then bang, we were off. Up a hill and I was in the back of the pack. Then I was alone, no one in sight. I knew it…I was in over my head. I was last. I didn’t belong here. But here I was, so I kept running, and you know what?
I had a BLAST! I lost track of the creek crossings, picking my way across icy rocks, it was so much fun. I followed the markings, up the switchbacks, through the forest, following the markings up and up to the craggy summit where the view was panoramic. As instructed I took note of the elevation marker so I could prove I’d made it to the top. Temperature was still in the low teens. My socks were wet, my water bottle froze shut, my M&M’s were coated in frost, my bandana was frozen solid. And I was having the time of my life.
As I neared the end, I was exhausted and chilled. I’d gotten briefly lost and panicked. I’d fallen and skinned my knee. But I finished, and I wasn’t even last! When I announced the elevation on the marker to the race director, he grinned and congratulated me, I got a cup of hot chocolate, and at that moment I had everything in life I could want. I was flying high. I loved the trail, I loved the woods. I’m still in love, and always want more.
Lesson: Try something new, you might like it!