Sofia Freeman

2 posts

The Joy of Trail Running

We are extremely privileged to live in a beautiful City like Cape Town and trail running has become extremely popular and I can understand why. With it’s mountains and surrounding forests and vineyards within the City’s borders, it’s easy to see why it is such a trail runner’s paradise.

I still enjoy road running but mostly prefer trail over road because there is less congestion, prettier scenery, and awesome camaraderie. I was first introduced to trail running three years ago through a friend, Elschen Franklin, who has since relocated to New Zealand. But the bug bit and I’m addicted. Trail running has opened up a whole new world for me. I love being outdoors running with like minded friends through Rocky terrain, tackling hills, sprinting downhill or splashing through puddles of water. This has injected fresh energy into my runs and I am having so much fun exploring the natural world and getting away from it all.

Each and every trail has become a new adventure of discovery, as each trail event has its own unique terrain and challenge. There are wide trails, and of even surfaces. And then there are narrow single-track trails with a variety of obstacles, including tree-roots, rocks, sand, hills, mud and much more. Through trail running I have managed to explore many Wine Estates in Cape Town, which would otherwise have remained undiscovered. I also love to sometimes run up our beautiful Table Mountain although I leave the extreme technical trails to the pros.

Another attraction about trail running and I am pretty sure most of you will agree, is that it’s important to slow down and smell the roses, because running trails can be a lot more demanding than the roads, I figured that it was best to avoid comparing my pace, as I will be slower than normal road-running pace. For this very reason, at the start of any trail event I do not feel the pressure to perform as I do with a road race. On roads I tend to be very conscious of my pacing and sometimes push harder than I should, whereas with trail running I tend to be more relaxed and sometimes walk the hills (take selfies and/or panoramic pictures), sprint downhills (no selfies here) and run the flats. Most importantly, I have fun on the trails.

Each time I run trail I work different muscles because of the different motion and action of my body compared to road running. Afterwards I feel pain in places I never thought existed. It’s a great feeling as it means I have had a great overall workout. It is for this very reason that trail running can also prevent common running injuries. The camber of the road combined with repetitive pounding can cause stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints. Running on grass, gravel, wood chips or sand can save your legs and add longevity to your running career. It certainly has aided in preventing me from getting another streets fracture.

All in all trail running lifts my spirits and adds joy to my running, certainly a breath of fresh air. Getting up early in the morning and driving to some or other exotic destination, practically on my doorstep and knowing I’ll be running in some beautiful forest or mountain adds a sense of wonder and adventure to my weekends. Early winter morning registrations have an added flair as we huddle around warm fires before our start, which adds to the fun and uniqueness of trails. But be careful! You know what they say about trail running – once you get on the dirt, you never want to go back to the roads.

Who Are You as a Runner?

There are many aspects to being a runner and I love it’s diversity. You get the fast runner, slow runner, average runner, the long distance runner, short distance runner, the road runner, trail runner and the list goes on. Imagine how boring the world would be if we all fell under the same category?

We might also have contrasting definitions of running and of course we set individual goals. To keep fit and stay healthy, to loose weight, to be outdoors and have fun. To get as many PB’s (Personal Best) as possible or to experience a runner’s high.

These are all valid points and I certainly run to experience all of the above but as a runner who has experienced the recurring disappointment of injury, (stress fractures) my definition of running has changed slightly. My number one priority is to run injury free, while still experiencing all of the above benefits.

First of all I have had to learn that our bodies are different and not all of us are made to run certain distances. Success has many different facets. Whether you run 3kms or 5km parkruns you are considered a runner and shouldn’t put yourself in a box because admittedly that is what we tend to do to. We are all unique and different and should celebrate each other’s uniqueness.

As a first time runner, many years ago I went all out and pushed myself to the point of burn out which inevitably ended in an injury in the form of a stress fracture. Since then I have had to learn to listen to my body and apply self restraint. While others are able to train everyday, I had to learn that I am “Me” and not “Others”. It meant running three times a week for me as an individual. At first, holding back was not easy, but the rewards have been well worth it.

Needless to say, I am delighted to announce that I have enjoyed running consistently, injury free for the past four years, which has led me to decide on a bold move. To tackle a new challenge which will be in the form of a 30km race.

I believe that when it comes to making resolutions, we should consider goals based on process instead of outcome. Be consistent with good habits, discover who you are as an individual and do not be afraid to make adjustments. That way, you can sustain momentum by celebrating small, frequent victories and that is what I intend to do, to enjoy the ride until I have reached my goal.

So how do we define a successful runner? You have laced up your running shoes, got up and hit the road or trails. You have run your first kilometer. Well done. You are an achiever. A success. Be yourself, make adjustments while doing what you love and enjoy the journey.