Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Trail Runner Read - The Summit Seeker

Trail runners and road runners are common kin, yet not fully of the same breed. I’ve never ran a trail I didn’t enjoy, and have in fact completed the recently run Ann Arbor area Trail Marathon sponsored by Running Fit.  Still, as someone who visits nearby trails at the most once a month, I wouldn’t call myself a trail runner.  
Trail runners and ultra runners are amazing creatures who have my awe and respect.
For some reason a trail runner with tattooes is just a bona fide bad-ass to me.  All that time in the woods toughens their hides, fills up their soul, and mutates them into something a bit more evolved, but also closer to mother earth.
Trail runners seem more solitary yet at the same time more communal. More solitary, in that they seem to run longer distances, and by  the nature of the secluded trails, more alone. Yet they also seem to share a secret language. An unspoken bond.  You’ll see this at events,  you’ll see it in their eyes, and it’s evident in the book I read, The Summit Seeker.
I came across The Summit Seeker because I have been secretly rewriting a series of blog posts to mash them together into an ebook (oops, secrets out of the bag) and was looking for similar works. Summit Seeker was a great purchase. The book is a great mix of running moments, glimpses into a very interesting life, and reads with a near stream of consciousness. Runners of all types will see themselves and feel inspired. In fact, I will guarantee you will like it, or I’ll give you your money back  (if I can just find those secret forms you first need to fill out, now where are they...? )
There were so many take aways from this book. I enjoyed the discussion how trail running is less focused on time and how the solitary nature of a trail run contrasts to the crowded chutes of marathons. The author goes into the Stages of being tired, without being all scientific and stuffy, but is much more visceral and spiritual. It always reads with the joyful wit of someone who has logged enough miles to ascend to higher planes and then return to tell us about it. There is a great conversation on what she learned from Hobbits, and the spot-on insight into how nobody asks why we do other things, like  go to the movies or why we listen to music, but they do ask why we run. 

Many of these things are of course universal to all of runnng, and if you've never ran a trail you'll still find something that resonates with you. Running music, the author explaines, is best when it has a personal history in it for you. That ran true, as did the discussion on how we crave the suffering and discomfort of the run, and when we line up at the start of a race, we can never fully know what we are going to get. And that’s the beauty of it.
Due to the greatness of the Kindle, the best invention ever in the history of everness, I can easily highlight some of my favorite passages and then reread. Here’s a peek into some of them:
Our evolutionary instinct, when faced with a danger or threat, is to run. The best runners were the ones who survived.  Today we have different threats.  …While some run as a social activity, I usually prefer to run alone. ….Running taught me to survive. And then it taught me to thrive
Running in the winter is to not give up when the road gets hard. It’s about willpower and perseverance and being faithful to your sport. Loving your patch even when it’s ugly.
When I run barefoot  my instincts come alive. It’s like I have an extra sense. I’m sharply aware of every creak….. I can almost hear the neural connections in my brain.
Running for me is the physical and emotional act of moving forward. Leaving all the garbage behind and striving toward a better future. The greater the physical pain, the deeper the emotional relief.
I chose my poison and can drink it gladly. My mantra for the rest of the race became, “I Chose This.” It reminded me to bear my suffering with joy. And for the entire race, joy was what I found.  (Blogger’s Note: “I Chose This” has immediately been deposited into my bank of personal Mantra’s, to be pulled out in time of need.)
You don’t have to be fast, but you better be fearless.
Where marathons force you into corrals based on your speed, the ultra slaps you on the back and says, “stand wherever the hell you want. Your chance is as good as any of these other poor suckers.’ And when you believe that, you know you’re an ultrarunner.
I don’t think running is supposed to hurt all the time. But if running never hurts, I wonder if you’re doing it right.  I wonder if you’re  growing or exploring your limits
Visit her blog at: http://vanessaruns.com/   
From what it sounds like, she’s now living in her RV (no joke), traveling to trails here and there, living off the bugs who fly into her mouth, and in general completing her full mutation into a new, more advanced species.


Detroit Runner(Jeff) said...

I plan to used the trails for my next marathon which is really flat.

Ann said...

Great review. I am definitely going to get this. I didn't realize she had written a book. Thanks.

Suzy said...

This is awesome! I NEED to read her book. I don't have a Kindle... I'll hunt it down online somewhere. Thanks Mark!

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