DIRTY SECRETS: Confessions of a trail runner

Screenshot 2015-03-27 21.14.53Over the last four weeks, we’ve run a competition in partnership with The North Face, daring trail runners to bare their deepest, perhaps darkets, hopefully funniest secret from on trail. A confessional of sorts that gives insight into the weird and wonderful things that happen out on trail, be that physically or in the farthest reaches of your minds (which trail running, especially endurance trail, tends to reach into!).

The judges from The North Face have laughed and blushed through all the entries, the first four below being the winners. But we thought we’d list the rest, for shits and giggles (both of which were featured numerous times in your confessions).

Thanks for entering. Stay tuned for more competitions where you can win great goodies from our partners.

‪WINNER: Clint Zirk‪
I once had to run home sockless (about 10km) after nature called very urgently and there were no leaves in the vicinity of the hidey spit I found.

WINNER: ‪Caroline van der Mey‪
I was running my first trail race and we were going through lots of water – my shoe laces kept coming undone and my hands were so cold that I could not tie them up and when I did try they just came undone straight away. You would think I was just learning to tie my shoes. In the end a fellow runner was sorry for me and tied them for me.

‪WINNER: Shane Winzar‪
Hmm, finding on trail when it starts to hurt unwillingly rewording classic rock tunes to fit the scene. Best effort yet hitting the beach at last year’s Surf Coast Trail Marathon with a custom ordred king tide smashing the beach – think to the tune of Midnight Oils Beds are Burning:

“How can I run when my legs are burning,
how can I drink when my stomachs churning,
the tide has come – to claim its share,
my shoes are stuffed – theres a heap of sand in there”  

– just hoping that arms flailing on the downhill not looking like too much like Peter Garret on stage!

TNF BMXWINNER: ‪Steven Allen‪
When I’m out running mountain bike trails by myself I like to pretend that I am riding a BMX or a dirt bike. I even put my hands out front on my imaginary handlebars. I love to hit the jumps and kick my legs out and imagine I am in NitroCircus! ‪Surely I am not the only one who does this ?


‪Dion Milne‪
Late in an ultra I get deliriously stupid trying to amuse myself. Standing at the top of a half pipe on a skateboard is probably not wise at 85km. Look out for my next trick.

‪Nick Moore‪
I was running along quite happily through the Waitakeres one day and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back with a sore head looking up at the sky and the low branch that had taken me out … I’m still not quite sure how long I’d been there but it may have been some time! Resumed the run but vowed never again to wear a cap running through thick bush. Amateur.

‪Mick Bettanin‪
On the final stretch of a nice long trail run, a tree jumped out in front of me. Being in a somewhat fatigued state my ninja reflexes were not as sharp as normal thus I ran strait into it. Result? Cut my ear, chest, eye and arm, got home in a bloody, sweaty, incoherent mess. I love trailrunning.

‪Richard Holgate‪
I was running in the local nature reserve last weekend and was feeling good until about 3kms from home, when I got that uneasy feeling in the stomach. I pushed on but before I knew it I was down to a walk and clenching my cheeks tightly hoping to hold back the tide. Then I recalled some advice a relative gave me on curing hiccups. She is a hiccup whisperer. She gets right up close to the sufferer and says “Repeat after me. My diaphragm is a muscle. I control my muscles”. Most times the hiccups stop. So, for the 2.5km walk home I repeated to myself, mostly out loud “My sphincter is a muscle. I control my muscles.”
I made it home……….just!

‪Babi Szolosi‪
When I ran my discovery run at Wilsons Prom the first time, I couldn’t resist the crystal clear water at Refuge Beach Nth, looked around, no one was around, took my clothes off and swam. It was awesome!

‪Leigh Nielsen‪
Another confession I have to make is that when I find that really peaceful place, I find the highest rock I can find, cross my legs and close my eyes and listen to the silence. One day I hope to be able to levitate, but for now the tranquility is enough.

‪Of course this makes it awkward when another runner or hiker comes past. There aren’t many excuses to be sitting on a high rock; bird watchers tend to have real binoculars, not use their hands, and climbers tend to attack something a bit…higher.

‪The embarrassment is nothing however, as I’ve usually found that inner peace to be able to continue on through the up and downs to come.

‪Jon Lim‪
I’ve had a few interesting experiences out on the trail whilst under the light of a head torch. I’ve experienced what felt like there had been a zombie apocalypse whilst running the last 4 kms of a 100km Ultra. Complete darkness along a long stretch of beach with only the sound of the waves rolling on one side & the vision of soft sand under foot within my light bubble. I looked forward, I looked back…nobody to be seen, nobody to be heard, only me….and the sound of my own breath….at one point my torch batteries ran out and I was in complete darkness had to fumble around trying to replace with spares I luckily had with me! Another time I was on a group night trail run and unbeknownst to me my batteries gradually ran out and I had run with another guy ahead of me for quite a while till I realised my visions of the trail ahead were only being lit up by his light!….Better keep up! But my most scariest experience was when I went to tie up my shoe lace whilst running at night on the trails alone….all is good when you are running and in the moment in your light bubble but once I stopped I started hearing things….movement in darkness….the sound of bushes rustling….weird sounds….something coming towards me?! I’d like to think I’m pretty brave but stopping in one spot with no other light sources around in the middle of the bush can be daunting sometimes when certain parts of your mind take over….

‪Richard Holgate‪
It sounds like trail runners pretend to be all sorts of things on the trail. Me, I like to pretend I’m a trail runner. I don’t consider myself a proper runner yet, but I try to go off road once a week. Usually these runs are only 5 to 8 kms long but I do occasionally imagine I’m finishing strongly in a trail marathon. Hopefully I’ll get there one day.

‪Michelle Edwards‪
I definitely day dream a lot while trail running alone. It’s possible I’ve envisioned myself tripping/ falling and being rescued by a cute outdoorsy Prince Charming… more than once…

‪Matt Che Bell‪
In the lead up to alpine challenge last year I was training a lot in the dark on my own. I started to get bored so would pretend I was in the army like when I was a kid. Walking poles were great for ascent of Mt Macedon but on the way down they doubled up as an AK-47 and I’d shoot pretend enemy soldiers. I even got as far as dodging grenades and land mines.

‪I’m actually surprised that I didn’t hallucinate war at Alpine Challenge……

Leigh Nielsen‪
My dirtiest secret is that I stack it regularly. It’s not a good run unless I have lost some skin, preferably on the knee area. I must need better footwear…however, each bruise is another point on the map of my outpost experiences and I hope to be one healthy bruise by the time I’m and old man.

‪Valerie Henderson‪
I love trail running because I can’t sing. When I’m out in the hills and no ones about I sing my heart and soul out, for a short time I think I sound just like Rihanna and there’s no one there to tell me any different

Sarah McWilliams‪
I meditate 7 breaths into every single body part from my Left Big Toe to the Crown of my Head… I notice the pull of my mind into different directions: “Bloody Hell, How much Further, what I have to do after my run, work worries etc…” Always bring back to the breath in body part… Then I flow onto what sounds I can hear, what smells I smell, what tastes I sense in my mouth, what I see around me and of course what I feel externally and internally…. So grateful to have the time to totally COME HOME TO MYSELF

‪Bill Emmens‪
When doing a trail run in the Wairarapa over farmland alast year it was very wet and muddy. All I was concentrating on was not slipping / falling in a cow pat. Much to my displeasure I slipped and had a nice cow pat up my left leg.

‪Harry Escott‪
I tell the wife to run in front of Me, just so I know she is safe. Really it’s so I can check her sexy as butt out. Oh n the fact it nearly kills me to stay infront and set the pace. Goto say it’s a much better view from the back of the group. PS don’t tell her about the pacing bit, she thinks I’m a good runner.

‪Natalie Apple‪
My dirtiest secret is that I only have a pair of Salomon trail runners. And sometimes I like to throw a few Muay Thai shadow boxing moves into my run, which should really be done in bare feet.

‪Matt Gilbey‪
I like to run at night in a group, carefully matching my cadence with those around me (surprising how a group of people match up after a while) then turn off my headlamp, using the light around me – pretending I’m not there. ‪Shh don’t tell anyone

‪David Anthony‪
Passing thoughts of a trail runner running in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia. //// Don’t roll my ankle again. Don’t roll my ankle again. Don’t roll your ankle again! WOW! The sky looks great today. I love how the sun passes through the trees. Oooops! Watch that rock. Don’t roll my ankle again. Don’t roll my ankle again. / I’d love to just leap from that branch and do a summersault, land back on the track and keep running. Nah! Too dangerous. I’ll try it next time. / I wonder how long it would take for people to know I am missing if I get lost out here? / WOW! Didn’t think I’d get that far. Pretty good stuff Davey if I can say so myself. / Soo hot. Just need water. / Maybe I should just run in my underwear one day, or nude! Might scare some walkers though. A bit painful if I don’t keep all my gear secure. Nah. Too dangerous. Maybe next time. / So after this, I think I’ll hit the gym for some light weights. Or maybe I’ll just do some cool down push ups and crunches. Or maybe I’ll just go to the pub. Hmmm? / Just over this ridge and I’ll be there. Nope. My bad. It’s the next ridge. / I can’t feel my legs. / Oh what I’d give for a coffee right now. / Cramp! / You go ahead. I’ll just walk this section next section until I get to the end of the the next minute. It’s good for cross training. I’ll catch up. / Don’t slip down the side of that gorge like you did last time. / I need music! / Just heard that track. / 1, 2, 3, jump. / Spit! Hit that branch you get 10 points. / I’d really like to ask Rachel out. She’s so… gifted / You know what? I don’t want to turn around and head back. It’s paradise out here. / I love the sounds of nature. / I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky. / I think I can run forever! ////

‪Bonnie Blue‪
I never run with music devices. I never take my phone on a run. I let the missus know where I’m heading, how long I’ll be, and what my worst case return time will be.

‪I hate the idea of running with technology, constantly being measured and assessed. I run for freedoms and I run with my dog. If I get lost I say “home” and she finds the trail again. I’m not running mountains and desolate areas, just the bush lands around where I live. Still dangerous enough for snakes and the heat.

‪But I like the idea of leaving it all at home and just me and the dog and some water and a light pack with Glucogels and a hat.

‪Probably not the safest way to run, but if that’s my worst sin in life, I’m ok with it.

‪Matt Menegazzo‪
When I’m out there on the trails
‪Quite a few things come to mind
Like ‘why did I carry so little water?’
And ‘where is the best pooping-bush I can find?’.
It is hot so I rummage for my hat
To realise I’ve brought a total of: none
And what use is my expired SPF 15+
Beneath this burning sun?
‪The rolled ankle is now swelling
It barely fits inside my shoe
This blister, popped, has no relief
Quick – fetch the superglue!
Chafed regions I must not discuss
And no body glide can repair
I grimace, and smile, getting on with the job
While deep down, inside, I swear.
Sweet downhill slogs provide reprieve
From a constant uphill grind
But as the battery fades in my headlamp
I realise I’m running blind.
As I’m out there on the trails
Through the perils and the pain
I think how odd it is to love this so
Trail runners… they’re insane!

Thanks to The North Face Australia for supplying the Ultra 2 prize shoes for this competition, and thanks to all those who entered and bared their dirty soul.