In every community, you will find children, elders, and those in between. My trail running tribe is no different, and I am no different.
Four year ago, coming off a miserable road marathon that battled cold rain and hard pavement, I searched for something new. I was looking to transition. Transition to running natural ground trails.
A few weeks of internet browsing, I finally stumbled upon a website for a brand new club, the Houston Area Trail Runners, affectionately known as HATR (hāt-r). I quickly emailed the leader and found out they met Saturday mornings at Memorial Park’s mountain bike trails. I knew Memorial Park fondly having run the 3-mile super loop for years, but never thought of running the bike trails. It was there on those trails I found my tribe.
That first morning I nervously stood in the parking lot near the trail head and in the dark, both
literally and figuratively. I saw a few others standing around, but then with much commotion, a tatted up dude came flying out of the woods: sweaty, muddy, wearing a flashlight on his head. With a friendly but serious smile he shook my hand and introduced himself as the leader of HATR. As he welcomed me he assured me that the sun was coming up soon and that the back trails were really muddy so we would avoid them that day.
Later that morning upon arriving home, I told my wife, “It was like a great wilderness hike, but at a faster pace! I may have found my people!”
I sure did. Saturday mornings with my new found HATR friends became a regular event. I listened and soaked in everything. Horrific stories of all night trail races in the Hill Country, of shoes literally disintegrating on the rocky trails, updates on runners’ accomplishments with the unfamiliar names of Krar, Jurick and Krupicka, and of super human accomplishments… 50 miles, what?!
In just a few months, with encouragement from this community, I ran my first trail race, a night run outside of Austin, TX. While lying in my tent after that race, marinating in my own funk, listening to the whoops outside as runners finished, I held onto my own finisher’s medal and thought, “Yes, this is what I’ve been looking for.”
The club taught me how to run trails, how to push my boundaries, what to wear and how to properly hydrate. It is here I first heard of a hydration mix called Skratch Labs. My knowledge and courage increased while my friendships grew. Gatherings grew to include potlucks and happy hours.
Fast forwarding four years, I am now the experienced ultra-runner with belt buckles and the confidence to tackle anything with a trail. I was asked just this past Saturday by a new runner about how anyone can run an ultra, let alone 100 miles. I am by no way an expert, but I do have experience to share. Sharing those experiences nourishes and enriches the tribe. It sets the stage for the new members to grow and gain their own experiences.
Looking back, some of the faces in the tribe have come and gone, but the body of HATR has not changed. It is still a friendly group of runners, some novice and some experienced, but all are part of our family.
What tribe do you belong to? Who within motivates you to push yourself to have those experiences? Are you the wide eyed novice runner with street shoes or the experience professor with knowledge to share? No matter who you are, rest assured it #TakesAVillage.