So, WTF Is A Trail Run. That’s What We Said.

WTF is a trail run.

That’s a statement. And a question.

As in, WTF is a trail run. It’s in Tempe. It gives runners the choice of a quarter or half marathon distance, which means either 6.5 miles or 13.1 miles. It starts at the Tempe Town Lake marina, winds through Papago Park, and ends back at the marina.

And it has a badass medal. See?

finish medals
Said badass WTF medal.

But there’s also this. WTF is a trail run? For this roadrunner, it’s a valid question. Yeah, I’ve done an alpine trail run before, but never one in the desert. Not like this.

So, WTF is a trail run?

A trail run is a run that climbs. It’s a jogging hike, and I didn’t really realize that until I reached the end of the first mile or so. And it only hit me because that’s when my calves started to tingle from the vertical incline.  Like, people hike this. And, we’re running it.

A trail run is rugged. It demands that you keep your eyes down, hawk-like on the terrain. Because it winds, and it climbs, and it descends, and it goes through crevices and around holes and over rocks. Big rocks – more like exposed boulders. There is no opportunity to get into that roadrunning zone I’m so used to blissfully escaping to. Every step is different than the one before it.

A massive drainage pipe on the WTF trail.

A trail run leaves you arguing, internally, with the mile marker signs. Because, you know you’ve already run at least twice as far as that damn sign says. And your burning quads and buns are first-muscle witnesses to your case. The inclines are so killer, if you’re typically a roadrunner, that they elongate the miles. Significantly.

A trail run is kind of confusing. Not its purpose, but its direction. I’ll readily admit I don’t do maps well. Nor, do I have a reliable general sense of direction. So when I lost the dude who I had been pacing behind, and realized I was on my own to follow the green guide ribbons through a sea of snaking desert trails, I got lost. Only momentarily, but still. And then I became the spaz who looks to see if someone saw you fall – you know that person?  I didn’t fall, but I did look behind me and offer an “Ooops!” to the people following, who had headphones on and probably couldn’t hear me anyway – making me even more of a spaz.

Not lost. Yet.

A trail run bargains. Well, it doesn’t, but you do on its behalf. And you bargain with your body parts. You bargain with your ankles, promising them you’ve got their back.  You bargain with your toes, especially the big ones, telling them it’ll all be okay. You bargain with your quads and glutes, telling them that the current, wretched incline is “only a little bit further” even though you can’t really see where it ends.

A trail run starts early, which means if you’re lucky, you’re eating sheet cake at the finish line before most people are awake on a Sunday. I mean, at least that’s what we did, after catching the sunrise on the water. Sheet cake at the finish line, by the way, is SO money. So are the salty peanut bars and chips, the sweet bananas and the lemon-lime Gatorade along the route, which tasted like headache-free champagne. Which is to say it’s magical.

Sheet cake at the finish. So so clutch.

A trail run also makes you feel pretty gangster. Eh, to be honest, most runs make us feel that way. But we couldn’t resist this. Because, it kind of spoke to our souls. Our gangster souls.