Mark J. Keenan
Run to the hills
A few rambling thoughts on trail running and life.
Every stick is a snake.
No, every stick is NOT a snake but sometimes it will be. Pack a snake first aid kit in your backpack and get out there and run. Don’t let your fear of reptiles slow you down.
There are many things in this world that can hurt you. Be aware, don’t be afraid.
Hills are your best friends.
I like climbing hills. That’s what I tell everyone. In reality I don’t like the climbing so much, just what it does for me and that feeling you get when you reach the top. Head up, look to the next tree or other landmark, and keep going. Eventually you will get there.
Doing things that are difficult for you builds strength. Do them often. While they won’t necessarily become easier to do, they will get easier to finish, because you will believe that you can.
Enjoy the downhills.
Running downhill can be an exhilarating experience. It can also be terrifying. All that pace, all that gravity, and then a change in terrain or a sharp turn and you suddenly have perfect conditions for the ultimate stack. Relax your upper body for balance, manage your stride to avoid overstepping, open your eyes and then go for it.
No one wants to fall over, no one wants to make mistakes. But life should be fun too - so relax, take some risks and just watch where you are stepping.
Embrace the terrain.
The best thing about trails is that no two runs are ever the same. The terrain is always different. Single track, fire trail, sand, rock, water - you can find it all in one run and it can change from one hour to the next depending on the weather. It also means you need to keep your eyes wide open, look ahead for what is coming, look down to see where your feet are going and remember not to look at the runner ahead of you.
No one can live your life for you. The challenges you meet may be similar to someone else’s but how you tackle them will be unique. Things will always be shifting, that’s just how life is. Learn from others, seek advice and help, but remember that it’s your path to travel so do that however works best for you. And when things change, don’t be afraid to adjust your approach.
Run with mates.
I enjoy running solo, there is something about it that appeals to me. It’s the simplicity that I like, the feeling of calm that I experience. But running trails alone can be risky. You could injure yourself and be unable to use your phone. And there is always the risk that the stick really is a snake. So I try to run with others whenever I can and participate in events. There is something about trail-running events, and the people who run them, that is just so fun and inspiring. And I have found that sharing stories with someone while running through the bushland is something akin to therapy, good for both mental and physical well-being.
It’s good to become comfortable with your own thoughts, to be able to spend time alone and enjoy it. But it’s also great to be able to share your experiences with others, both people you know well and those that you don’t - to be human and spend time with other humans.