Notes from Rachel: On Why Trail Running is the Worst...And the Best

I come from a family of road runners. I would venture to guess that most people who come from running families do. My mom prefers crushed gravel. My dad is a sidewalk guy. My brother, a lifelong soccer player, subjects me to the torture of field sprints.

Running on asphalt or concrete is respectable and convenient. I do it all the time. But there’s a chatter in road running that won’t go away: stop lights, moving cars, parked cars, bikers, strollers, restaurant pizza smells, angry drivers, people who walk and text at the same time. It drives a wedge between what’s going on around you and what’s going on inside you: how your body is being refined, driven, beaten, and strengthened.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written before this, you know I love poetry. I studied poetry because it requires an undivided, sharp attention. Every word drives the poem toward its meaning. Needless to say, I don’t write much poetry sitting at a busy intersection.

Trail Runner

Get this.

Trail running requires your sharp attention. Every step drives the body toward meaning. It is the mind trying to understand the body, and the body trying to understand the heart.

But also:

It is hard! The poet Rainier Maria Rilke writes, “saviors should be quarried in the mountains, where the hard is broken from the hard.” His claim is that the hardest terrain makes the best people!

It is intimidating! The first time I ran in Forest Park, I parked at the Thurman gate, ran to the top of Wild Cherry, took a right onto Wildwood, and turned around after a few minutes more of running, fearing I’d get hopelessly lost.

It requires different skills! Like: power hiking, knowing how to place your feet on steep downhills, and using the bathroom in the woods, among many other things I’ve learned the hard way.

I recommend solid, experienced guidance, whether you want to get out on trails for the first time, or you want to sign up for your first ultra-marathon.


Yassine and Willie, the coaches and owners of Wy’east Wolfpack, bring with them years and thousands of miles of experience on trails. It is, in fact, what they are nearly always doing.

Their coaching is comprehensive: for more advanced trail runners, they speak to endurance training in physical and mental terms (technique and mindset). For beginners, they are approachable, open, and caring. I’ve seen them celebrate new trail runners and elite ultra-runners alike.

Their mission is something I passionately believe in: a trail offers you something that the road can’t.


So, consider signing up for this next five-week series if:

  • running has become a chore
  • you’re sick of running through construction zones
  • you love hiking but are intimidated by Forest Park
  • you’re thinking of running a trail race but want to be more confident
  • you’re interested in becoming stronger and more physically balanced
  • sidewalks hurt your knees
  • you want to build mental strength
  • you want to make new friends and find new training partners

Read more here. See you there.


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