If trail running was a movie genre, what would it be?
Is it a romance? We get soft and gushy when we talk about it (at least I do). And like any newly-minted relationship we can’t stop talking about it, much to the eye-rolling chagrin of those outside of the union.
Then there’s the three–month honeymoon period where it’s all rosy and you’re on a high. Inevitably trouble sets in – little niggles, arguments of the mind and body begin to incur. The reality of relationships become clear: once the endorphins of the first few months of cuddly forest runs wears off the realisation is that there’s work to be done, effort required if this relationship is going to survive the long term. You consider your options. You consider breaking up – you start to doubt the partnership is working for you. You feel bereft – what happened to the goey love feeling ? And then it returns from the ebb, the thunderclouds part – or you at least learn to love the stormy nature of your commitment.
Of course, there’s the When Harry Met Sally moments where we explode in moments of orgasmic ecstasy – that run that flows like a mountain river, the race that goes better than planned, the event that sparks connections to others, to yourself, mind and body, and the summit view that literally has you ‘yes, yes, yes, YESSSSSSSSS-ing’ louder than Meg Ryan thumping a table in a diner [younger readers: it’s a famous film with the most famous orgasm scene in Hollywood history]. And of course, trail running certainly makes the heart beat louder and faster throughout the rollercoaster. Yes, it could be a romance movie.
Of course, trail running could definitely be of the porn genre. Check the Trail Porn photography portfolios section as featured in every edition of the printed magazine and get your rocks off.
A rollicking adventure film? Well, duh. Mountains, valleys, summits, forests, deserts, tricky river crossings. Unknown outcomes. Trophy treasures at the end. And let’s face it, an ultra is like watching the Indiana Jones series back to back to back (to back if you’re game). On trail, we raid the lost ark (of possibility), there’s always a temple of DNF doom looming large, and the next ultra is always pinned as your last crusade. But just like Spielberg you can never stay away and so there’s always another instalment of singletrack adventure on the horizon. We just hope your comeback ultra isn’t as disastrous as The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, nor off the back of a 19–year hiatus.
Action? Ever been at King Hut, the 72km mark at Oscars 100 Hut 2 Hut? Or better yet, the Lohs, the 182km mark of Down Under 135? I rest my case.
Fantasy? Yes there’s of a touch of that in any trail running life. We all fantasise about running a ridge (or Everest) like Kilian, or delude ourselves with the fantasy that we can still run that 100km with a bung Achilles. If you push into milers, well, your run will definitely feature tinges of the Neverending Story. You’re a warrior whose task is to stop a dark force called the Nothing from engulfing your world. Talk to anyone who has run one of those new fandangled 200 milers and they will nod their head knowingly like Falkor the Luck Dragon who knows of the challenge ahead. Of course you still bite off the 200 miles like a Rock Biter in a quarry. (Note: I’d love for someone to log Bastian Balthazar Bux as their next bib name at one of my runs. Or Atreyu. But not Gmork).
What about comedy? Ever fell flat on your face on a buffed–out trail? Tick. Thrown up at an aid station? Tick. Screamed ‘medic!’ unnecessarily at a finish line? Tick. Squatted next to someone during a multiday, both evacuating profuse diarrhoea while conversing about what food might be at the next aid station? Tick. Yep comedy is core to trail running. Without a sense of humour, you’re stuffed.
Science fiction? Have you seen the ingredients in some of those gels? Pure laboratory right there. And check the kit – compression socks, cordless headphones, t-shirts with heart rate monitors pinging in real time back to Strava, watches that have enough computing power to get you to the next galaxy, and hydropacks Ripley would be happy to rock (Alien, people, Alien, keep up with me)…we’re at least dressed like a galactic ranger on a mission to Mars. Of course, the fiction crashes the party when all that kit still doesn’t help get you up the big hill.
And there’s always a bit of Super Hero genre zinging about as we like to imagine ourselves conquering courses, standing triumphant at the finishline (I’ve actually seen Wonder Woman running at the You Yangs and at Afterglow Night Trail Run). Of course, like any Super Hero flick, we know the real heroes are the ones without a cape: the support crew who cajole you and comfort you at each aid station as you blubber about quitting. It’s them who truly but often humbly stand triumphant as the credits roll on social media.
But here’s the brutal truth: trail running is a horror movie. The injury is stalking you. Like following the creaking sounds into the cellar even though you know Freddy Kruger is down there waiting to rip you to shreds, you still enter that 135km run knowing it’s going to murder you. Knowing the pain will tear at your muscles. Knowing it will make your pupils dilate, your fears surface en masse, your every frailty rise to the surface. You may even scream some. You will certainly cry.
It’s Nightmare on Singletrack Street. The tension in the lead up will pre-load your body with cortisone. Your every rationality will scream at you to back the hell away. Just don’t watch the movie / don’t enter the ultra! But like any good horror movie fanatic, you’re addicted. The movie directors know it, so too do race directors. And they play on your fears. They push your buttons. They give you what you want: to be scared witless. And you pay your ticket. You enter the cinema. You rock the starting line. And you love it.
Yes. Trail running is a horror flick. Pass the popcorn.
– Chris Ord, Editor @one_life_wild
**This editorial featured in Edition #31 of Trail Run Mag, available via subscription HERE or single edition sale (print or PDF) download) via our shop. Trail Run Mag can only exist with the goodwill and subscription commitment of the trail running community – so we thank you for your ongoing support!**