My normal means for trail use is my mountain bike, but today I decided to switch things up by taking a short run instead. I haven't done any trail running since the Tough Mudder so it was high time I stomped some trail.
It's easy to forget how different your experiences on the trail can be when you run instead of hike or mountainbike - riding a horse is in a class of its own. Hiking is usually a social, family kind of time. It's great because you know you are going to be going at a slow pace and you will be able to talk with whoever you're hiking with. It's also easy to stop and observe things that you might miss if you ran or rode by. Mountain biking allows you to see a greater length of trail in a much shorter time. It's very possible that you will see more things, like wildlife or friends and acquaintances, but you pass by small details that you would not miss if you were going much slower. This is where I found myself today, going much slower than normal and running under the mid-day sun.
The first difference that I noticed today was how different the trail looked to me. I have hiked, run, and ridden the trails at Pineridge a number of times, but most often I'm on a bike. Today, I noticed more of the undulations in the trail and the finer details of the trail tread. Normally I roll through the sections and I feel the undulations in the trail through my bike, without much regard for the flatter parts of the trail. Running the trails today made me more aware of the topography in front of me and it was great to again see the trails in this light, it made everything feel new again on familiar trails. It also reminded me of the trail runner perspective regarding the other trail users.
When I'm on the mountain bike I do my best to adhere to the rules of the trail. Sometimes people get off for me even though they have the right of way and sometimes I have my head down on a steep climb and catch myself rolling up on some hikers faster than I intended to. As a trail runner, things feel a little different. There's no machine between me and the other users (unless they're on a bike) and it's much easier to maneuver around each other. I didn't come across any mountain bikers today but I was thinking about how I would handle a variety of encounters with a mountain biker. I know that, as a trail runner, I would have the right of way because mountain bikers must yield to hikers and runners. But because I also mountain bike, I would probably yield to a mountain biker under several different circumstances. I wouldn't do this because I was afraid, but more because I respect the mountain biker and I understand the effort and concentration that it takes to climb a steep pitch or safely descend in technical terrain.
As I was finishing my run today I thought, once again, about how nice it would be to have all trail users work together in Northern Colorado to participate in projects that improve trail quality for all users. Also, it would be great to get users together to help with educational projects that help everyone learn more about the environment where we play and our impact upon it.
I'm looking forward to getting Trailcology off the ground and working on projects with people from all walks of life that want to improve our trails and the relationships between their fellow trail users.