For the uninitiated, trail running is just what it sounds like: running over rough, uneven terrain (often singletrack trails) for fitness, for pleasure and, sometimes, for sport. While similar in spirit to the road-going variety of running in terms of movement, trail running has a draw that’s all its own. It often attracts a breed who delight in the scruffiness of the endeavor, throwing themselves into the elements of thicket-riddled parks and forests to have a good romp in mixed terrain—soaked shoes and muddy legs be damned.
Or, at least outsiders to the sport might think it’s some crazed and wildly different subculture of running, sharing some mechanics and fashions, but predominated by different athlete types with different goals. But like any sport designed to test yourself against a distance to complete—where times, mileage, and pacing are important to some—most trail runners derive the pleasure from the doing, rather than the attaining. So, for some run-curious types, making the leap to something new requires the right encounter.
That’s where the right event matters. It can provide the structure for that chance to do, to try and to experience what fuels the passion in so many trail runners. Enter the Salomon x Public Lands Trail Fest. The inaugural race gathering, which launched this October 1, offered participants both 5K and 10K route options, utilizing the single- and double-track, multi-use trails (including a small segment of the Rachel Carson Trail) of the greater Pittsburgh area’s North Park, not far from the Public Lands store in Cranberry Township.
Here are the reasons why you should put this and other community-oriented trail running events on your calendar to keep that spark of doing alive.
Open to All
Of the 140 or so folks who pre-registered for the event, some 75 lined up ahead of the timing chute, despite the wind, steady (and often driving) rain, and temperatures in the low 50s at the 5:30 p.m., Saturday evening start time. The intrepid participants ranged in age from middle school to retiree, and also included at least one infant, who completed the course sleepily strapped to their mother. An Ohio family of four made the drive out to take part in the race. Equally impressive, the diversity in fitness and gear on display, reinforcing the idea that you don’t need much to play in the dirt (or mud).
Not everyone needed the most technical, or even the most functional, gear to race (looking at you, cargo pant guy). Despite the differences in dress, it was the lack of clothing that distinguished the most competitive among the crowd of fun-seekers. “The better you get at trail running,” said one racer, eyeing an individual wearing naught but short-shorts and shoes, despite the chill, “the less clothes you wear.