Be a trail steward. Take care of, and learn about, the environment you are running through. Take note of the condition of the trail and work to better or maintain its current state. Following Leave No Trace (http://lnt.org) guidelines is a great place to start on how to best treat our environment, including: leave it how you found it, or better; move away from water sources and dig a hole to bury human waste; and haul out all trash, including toilet paper. As more people explore the trails we want to provide the same wild experience by minimizing our impact.
Be prepared. When you see a trail running photo, typically the look is a bit different than a road runner. Trail runners, more specifically long-distance trail runners, usually have a pack, a jacket and (I think) a big smile. Being prepared for changes in weather, longer-than-estimated time out, and accidents is an essential aspect of spending long hours in wild spaces. Carrying extra cash for a bus ride home when you bonk on the top of Green Mountain is not an option. A pack (my favorite The Ultra Vesta https://ultimatedirection.com/ultra-vesta/) that can carry key essentials like extra calories, water, a jacket (I like the Patagonia Houdini (http://www.patagonia.com/us/search/houdini)), beanie and gloves will get you through most basic situations. As the run time and exploration factors increase bring a map, wind pants (Houdini Pants), a water filter, more calories, first aid, a whistle and a buddy (preferably one with trail, mountain and even WFR (http://www.nols.edu/wmi/courses/wfr.shtml) experience). Adding these to your experience will help you feel safer and give you options for dealing with most situations.
Be flexible. As you figure out what routes, gear, food, clothes, shoes, etc. work for you, know that your body, the terrain and weather conditions will continue to morph and challenge you. Always be open to tweaking your systems.
Pedicures. Take care of your feet. Everything is riding on them.
Learn from others. There are great resources in people, on line and in books. Learn from their trials to avoid repeating their errors. Look into running blogs, books, gear reviews, race reviews. Be a student of the sport.
Be a student of yourself. Listen to your body, it has a lot to tell you, especially as you get into longer miles. No matter what terrain you are covering, I think this is a key lesson. Pushing our bodies through running offers incredible lessons, if we listen. As discomfort creeps in ask, “What do I need to do to keep moving forward? Will nutrition help? Hydration? A quick stretch break? A pause to take in the view I’ve earned? Extra clothing?” If you are dealing with a big decision at work, a conflict in a relationship or solving the world’s problems, long distance running allows you the headspace, clarity and perspective to work through these realities of life in a safe space. My quote pertaining to this: “There are not many issues in life that a long run cannot solve. Sometimes the run just needs to be a bit longer.”
Explore! Discover new landscapes and new bits about yourself. Running is the best way I know to explore new places while traveling. An easy morning run can give you better perspective of tthe lay of the land, to find the best coffee shop and hopefully access to wild spaces and trails (depending on where you are). As the miles add up, your mind has the opportunity to work through life’s issues, successes, questions and possibilities. It allows you space to check in with yourself, take a deep breath (or several) and gain perspective to ground yourself. While in that space you will gain self-awareness. To me this is the greatest gift running has given me.
Smile. This is the lesson I learned in my first ultra and it is one that carries through well into life. A smile will help you through pretty much anything.
Have fun out there and say hi to Bear Peak for me!
Bio: Krissy Moehl recently relocated back to the Pacific NW after living in Boulder for nearly four years. Upon arrival she launched the Bellingham chapter of Revolution Running as well as release a book entitled Running Your First Ultra Customizable Training Plans for Your First 50K to 100-Mile Race. Nearly 16 years of trail and ultra running have shaped her as a person and changed and challenged her life in ways she never could have predicted.