The trail or the road? The path less travelled or the route much trammelled? You don’t have to choose, you don’t have to be exclusive, you can play the field, but ultimately you will have a type. I nailed my colours firmly to the mast recently when I wrote of a local trail race:
“…In the great running dichotomy between hard grey tarmacadam or wet, brown mud, I lean decidedly towards the hard stuff. Actually I more than lean, I lie firmly down upon it. I am a road runner (baby). Cut me and I bleed blacktop. Running for me is about the rhythm, the even pace, the zoning out and tuning in; the eyes on the horizon. Whereas it seems to me that off-road is a never ending, series of millisecond micro-decisions weighing up every single step, eyes fixed permanently on the ground. It’s stop start, up down, over stiles and under branches (6ft 2 is not a good height for trail runners). It’s an opportunity for the fleet-footed and nimble, the graceful and agile to remind me how heavy, clumsy and lumpen I am. And okay, there’s all that pretty countryside to run through, but I never see the views, because there’s no opportunity to look up because every step is a potential death trap, what with rocks and roots and holes all vying for your attention and tempting your toes to tripping. In a nutshell, it’s stressful, not relaxing and I want my running to reduce my stress not add to it.” (The full review can be read here).
A man’s got to know his limitations. Running on the road can liberate me from those limitations, those demons that plague me, that I can recite at the least provocation. Running on the road gives me space to breathe, space to think and space to float away from life’s gravity for a moment. But off road running fails me in this regard and never ceases to remind me of my weight, height and all round disagility (which I know is not a word, but it is what I am, dis-agile). Some trails I like a lot (many of them in the Scottish Highlands), but I like them for training, not racing. Maybe that’s the real distinction here; it’s not about running, it’s about racing. I like to train the trails, even tame the trails, but I like to race the roads.
“Roadrunner, roadrunner, going faster miles an hour..”