I am a trail running loser…

Trail Run Mag ezine #3 is just around the corner trailites  – here’s a sneak peek via the AU editorial and don’t forget that the first ever hardcopy edition is now available at www.trailrunmag.com/shop:

I am a loser.

Not in a deadbeat, you’ll find me in the gutter snuffling around for a dropped ciggy butt and can ya spare a dollar mister I gotta get a fix, kind of way, mind you.

I mean I’m a loser in the literal sense. I lose. A nicer way of saying it: I do not win.

The lottery, raffles, lucky dips…never. And certainly I do not cross the line first in any race I’ve ever entered, trail or otherwise, since, ohhh, primary school.

Even my biggest ‘moment’ in the field of competition was actually a loss: sure, I was selected for the Victorian Cross Country Team to compete in the Australian National Titles, but I came third – not first – to get in the State team. Loser.

I remember going on the team training camp prior to the titles and getting barraged with questions from bods clearly more experienced and talented than me.

“So who’s your running coach? What running club do you run for? How many kilometres a week do you train?”

No-one, none and sweet f-all.

They all just looked at me like I was, well, a loser.

From memory I came second last at the nationals. Mega loser.

Here’s the thing (and maybe this is why I’m a loser): I’m not really that competitive by nature. Sure, I like to do well at things, but winning – beating others – is not what rocks my muddy socks.

For me going to the nationals was more about a few extra days off school, not being at a desk, the experience of a ‘new crowd’ outside the schoolyard, and of course running, the act of which I love. I just forgot that in this context the idea of turning the legs over was to win. Whereas in my head it was just to be there, to enjoy the grass under my crosscountry flats.

And so it’s been for the last twenty-plus years. I played footy, tennis, basketball, tried triathlons, dabbled in mountain biking, paddling…the lot. Not once did I get the urge (or perhaps the passion) to win coursing through my veins. I was always too busy looking at the trees, daydreaming, soaking up the moment.

I do wonder, when friends are getting all het up about losing a game of something or winning something else, why I tune out, couldn’t care less.

Is there something wrong with me? Am I missing a gene that makes me less of a man in this uber-competitive world?

Don’t get me wrong, I admire those who do win. I mean how can you not give cred to a guy like Andrew Vize (our Q&A in the upcoming edition of Trail Run Mag found here in a few days): who is fast tracking himself to legendary status. Or not respect the feats of a guy like Andy Kromar, perhaps the greatest legend Australian trail running has seen over the years.

But my admiration just doesn’t tip into outright adulation or idolisation – I don’t want to be these guys.

Do I like going fast? Oh yes. Do I like to push my own boundaries of what is possible? Absolutely. Do I like smashing myself? You bet. But the driving factor is the experience of smashing myself, not someone else, on the trail. For me it’s the simple things – like the simple art of getting dirty – that I run for.

An old school friend wrote to me recently – I hadn’t heard from him since those school days (Hi Drew). He’d stumbled upon Trail Run Mag as he delved deeper into the trail world. His email to me sums up so much:

“Had an awesome run this morning on some trails in the Dandenongs…I was hurtling down Sassafras Creek Trail well and truly out of control (and loving every minute of it!) when a tree root decided I needed a rest and brought me crashing down. At first I thought simply “Uh-oh what’s broken?”. Then realised I was laying there smiling like I was eight years old and playing in the mud with mates.”

I’m with Drew. I’m there for the mud and mates (and getting a little out of control on descents).

I love the fact that Drew runs with a group called ‘How Good Is This?’ (www.howgoodisthis.net.au). They’re an adventurous mob who just like getting out in the bush so they can have that “How good is this?” moment.

Now that’s my kind of thinking. That’s why I trail run.

I’ll take a punt and say that someone like Vizey won’t always win, but I bet he’ll always run trails, because while I may not be addicted to his drug of winning (nor do I have the talent or work ethic), he’s most definitely addicted to the same drug of the trail experience that I am.

So in the trail world, winners and losers aren’t all that different, really. Win, lose, whatever. So long as we’re running dirt, it’s win-win for all, even for a loser like me.


The Ordinary Trail Runner

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