“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” Edward Abbey

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As runners we ask a lot of our bodies – especially during winter, peak racing season for us trail folk.  For many of us punishing training schedules (or, perhaps worse, no training) and hectic racing timetables are crammed into the ever shortening days, clashing with busy lives. Add the inevitable tweak, strain and/or bout of flu that inevitably accompanies overzealousness and things can become downright miserable. Running becomes a stressor, a chore. We forget why we do what we do. We dread the freezing predawn run rather than relishing the freshness of a new day, we grumble about a run in the rain instead of revelling in the exhilaration of facing a storm, and we dread the weekends’ meet rather than look forward to the camaraderie of sharing the joys of the trails. If that sounds like you then the arrival of spring is not as welcome as it may seem. Burnt-out, tired, the motivation to run seems years old. I have fallen into this trap so often.

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This year was different. I followed a more mindful approach to the winter season. Tailoring my training and racing goals to fit the weather and the ebb and flow of my own energy. At times I pushed harder than ever before, at others I resigned myself to days of books and hot chocolate. I made a point of listening to my body, really listening, being mindful of its state and its needs. I ate well, did lots of yoga (especially during the Cape winter squalls) and slept more than usual. I raced hard when I felt like it and when I didn’t but had a race coming up anyway, well, I just went out and enjoyed running with a like-minded group of people. No pressure. I enjoyed the changes in the weather, delighting in the different tone winter brings to my local trails.

Now spring has arrived and with it an air of excitement. Longer days, warmer temperatures, flowers and birds everywhere – glorious. I feel my body and spirit in tune with this season of awakening. Strong and healthy, I am more motivated than ever to get outside and explore. This is a unique experience for me and one I am so grateful for. Lesson learned.

We need to run, us trail folk. We need to be outside, to immerse ourselves in nature and movement. It is an essential part of our being, a necessity of our spirit. We need to be mindful of how we go about our task though, never losing sight of the fact that we run ultimately for fun, to cultivate a feeling of wholesome goodness, feeding our souls. So I encourage you (if it isn’t already too late, and if it is, maybe a fresh approach will stoke the running fire in you once again): listen to your body, run without expectation – feeling your way instead of forcing; eat well, rest well, enjoy more. Give back to your body and it will reward you tenfold.

Images by Robyn Kime

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