Last week while running with my friend Robin, she mentioned wanting to encourage a friend to join her on the trails. That conversation churned in my head for an entire week. Concurrently I was working on Juliet’s interview. Although Juliet is a relatively new trail runner, her energy for the sport is infectious. I asked her to share why she thought more Black women should try trail running. Her responses connected with me on so many levels. Hopefully Juliet’s letter will give other Black women the motivation they need to join us on the trails.
Trail running can be intimidating because we do not see too many people who look like us on the trails. We are a rare breed. I am often the only Black girl on the trail, so I get it. It might seem scary or we may feel that it’s not for “us” and there are many reasons we can try to justify this reasoning; however, no reason can outweigh the benefits of trail running. Trails and forests are for everyone. The more comfortable you are on trails the more you figure out what works for you, and then you begin to reap the numerous benefits.
I grew up in Kenya where everyone looked like me so running as a person of color has never been an issue. It wasn’t until I began running in the US that I realized that I was a minority, especially on the trails.
Trail running is good for our health and well-being. A sure way to combat the health problems in our community. I could go on and on about the benefits of trail running, but here are some highlights from my experience.
A whole-body workout. You will exercise muscles you didn’t know existed! Running on trails is next level and the benefits increase exponentially the more you run. In fact, you feel the effects hours after you are done. You will strengthen and stabilize every muscle, joint, ligament, tendon, and bone in your body.
The quality of air is better. I cannot stress this enough. I vividly remember an experience on a trail that had tall trees. I breathed deeply, and I literally felt a sense of wellness go through my body in that moment and throughout the day. The Japanese have been practicing shinrin-yoku, which means forest bathing. I experienced the benefits of forest bathing that day and on all my trail runs.
Very relaxing. Even if one is running, one is engulfed in the forest which provides a complete sensory experience that’s almost impossible to explain. The sounds, the scent, the sights, the feel of the soft terrain and the ability to taste the fresh air. An instant stress-reliever that brings about a feeling of comfort.
Its meditative. Go with an open mind and heart. You’ll be surprised the lessons you learn from nature. When I first started trail running, I would ruminate over what my lesson was going to be even before I hit the trail. This was backward thinking. These days, I show up and be present and God surprises me every time. It is a beautiful experience.
It’s more private. There are no traffic lights, cars, or people staring on trails. As women, especially black women, we tend to be conscious about our bodies, so we shy away from gyms or exercising outdoors. I feel, it’s different on trails. Nobody really cares. Everyone is there to just enjoy the outdoors. You still get a few people who wonder why you are there but that is their issue and because I belong just like they do.
It’s not restrictive and never boring. No equipment is necessary, all skill levels are welcome and its free! There is a sense of independence and adventure on trails, especially when exploring new trails. You can run as little as you want, as slow or fast as you want, and as far as you want to go.
See you on the trails!
Your Sister, Juliet