Editorial: Life bender

Vicki Woolley, NZ editor’s column from the latest edition of Trail Run Mag.

EditorialPicThe other day I picked up a crappy cheap canvas board from The Warehouse, plain black with blue writing:  “ONE DAY CAN BEND YOUR LIFE”.  It’s not hanging on the wall yet, oddly, I move it around the house every few days.  Even now as I glance at it propped up against my computer table, I am simultaneously empowered and humbled.

The course of my life bent dramatically two months ago when Malcolm Law published the story of my battle with mental health issues on the Partners Life High50 Challenge blog page.  Within four minutes of it going online, Facebook Messenger began pinging crazily and at the same time, texts came flooding in.  Not the sugary messages of sympathy I was dreading, thank god, but empathy for our shared experience.  My people – our people – pouring out their own tales of abuse, neglect, obsession, addiction and ultimately – anxiety, depression… finally suicide.  Words gushing out, crowding each other on the page, needing to be said, desperate to be heard.  So much pain.  So many tears.  So wrong.

I had always suspected that borderline mental health disorders were over-represented in the trail and ultra running communities, but until Malcolm and Sally Law created a safe platform for the conversations to start, I had not realised how rampant dis-ease in our community is.  And I can’t help but suspect it is no accident that so many of us have stumbled into trail running as a strategy for our emotional survival: trail running gives us a huge raft of benefits, possibly more than any other single sport I can think of.  Obviously flooding our system with endorphins and adrenaline is a double bonus in that it reduces negativity AND gives us that indomitable ‘runners high’.  The physical benefits are obvious: feel strong, feel fit, look good, feel good.   Running in wild and beautiful places feeds our souls, our sense of adventure, achievement: it is impossible not to have your spirit touched when running beside thundering West Coast surf, climbing an exposed rocky ridgeline, or cruising silently through a stand of majestic ancient Kauri.  And trail running has become a social sport, a way of connecting with like-minded souls.

And now we are at the crux of things.  Connecting.  Connection.  We wonder often – individually and in groups – about the unusual nature of bonds formed on trail.  We bond quickly and we bond deeply.  Is it because trail runners have a unique interest that is common to all – we love the outdoors?  Is it because the boundaries of competition are less clearly delineated than that of flat, fast road running: speed over terrain is subject to so many more variables; gender differences are narrower and vary over distance?  Is it because you must have a sense of humility if you run trail – at some point in the game you ARE going to end up face down in mud or gorse with your butt stuck in the air while your mates roar with laughter?  Is it because a great number of us run trail to quiet the noise in our heads – and we get that about our companions?  Is it a combination of all these, and more?

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Whatever: the point is that as we connect on trail, we talk about stuff that matters to us: sport, politics and religion, a shitty week at work, difficult kids and troublesome partners.  It’s just a little step further to be more open about ourselves: the things we are struggling with, the areas we need help. Mal, Sal and the Partners High50 Challenge have cracked the door.  It’s up to us to start the conversation.

Your thankfully connected editor, Vicki Woolley, NZ

THIS EDITORIAL is from Edition 14 of Trail Run Mag, now on the digital stands, downloadable for FREE or on subscription via iPad and Kindle. See www.trailrunmag.com/magazines to get your copy now.

Dirty kilometres: who’s counting?

Trail Run Mag’s New Zealand Editor, Mal Law, signs off on his last edition as chief honcho with bigger projects about to be crammed into his running schedule. We’ll keep Mal on (if he’ll let us) as an Editor-At-Large, which simply means he’ll contribute as and when he can and tell us when we need to pull up our socks on New Zealand-based content. In the meantime, his editorial asks the question…who’s counting? (He is and he’s not gonna apologise).

P1010317Remember the days before we all (ok, most of us) had GPS watches? When a run in the bush was accompanied only by bird call, trickling water and the steady thud thud of our non-minimalist (why did we never call them maximalist?) shoes? It seems an inconceivably long time ago when I trawl through hundreds of Garmin Connect Activities on my laptop, yet it’s only a few short years back.

The advent of the GPS watch and the possibility it creates for all kinds of geeky logging and analysis raises an interesting question. Has it enhanced or eroded the sport trail running? Are we now too fixated on the numbers and becoming oblivious to the pure essence of trail running that got us hooked in the first place?

At the start of this year I was feeling a little low on motivation and without any huge new goals to set my sights on I decided to declare 2013 to be the Year of the Streak. I would attempt to run every day for a year, no rest days allowed. I also set a target of running 5,000 kms during the year and so have been tracking my progress using my Garmin.

At the end of January I posted my progress on Facebook and was rather taken aback when someone commented that because I was counting kilometres I was corrupting the spirit of the sport.

“What happened to just going for a trail run for the love of it?” was the rather provocative remark that got me stirred up and yes, thinking about whether or not I was in any way stepping away from the essence of the sport I love.

Having had time to reflect on this I can now emphatically answer that question – NO I’m not. The joy of the trail and the reasons I do it are the same as they’ve always been. The simple act of running on beautiful tracks with great mates is still feeds my soul and replenishes my spirit. The fact that I’m counting kilometres as I go has in no way taken away from the enjoyment. In fact, if anything, it has provided me with the motivation to get out there more, experience more, discover more and further cement my addiction to what for me is a massively rewarding pastime.

GPS technology is there to be used if you want to, for whatever reason you want to use it. And if you’re not interested in using it then that’s fine too. Each to their  own I say – and if that’s not true to the utopian spirit of trail running then I don’t know what is.

Happy trails everyone – whether you count the kilometres or not.

Your streaking NZ Editor, Mal Law

AU ED’S NOTE: Quite simply, without Mal Law, Trail Run Mag would not exist and for all his efforts, time and sweat, we’d like to thank the man, the legend, the runner, the writer for everything he has contributed to the title over the past two years. It’s been a slow build by passionate people and none more passionate than Mal. Most of you who read Trail Run Mag will also know of Mal through his trail running endeavors and we can promise you that there will be plenty more by this man. We encourage everyone to follow Mal on his continuing singletrack journey.

On FB via Running Wild: www.facebook.com/runningwildnz
Via Running Wild website: www.runningwildnz.com
And of course buy his brilliant book* ‘One Step Beyond’ HERE.
(*We’ll run a chapter excerpt in the next edition to entice those who haven’t already bought it to do so: an investment in inspiration)

The team at Trail Run Mag would like to thank Mal profusely for being Mal: passionate, dedicated and a true runner in that he runs with his heart and thankfully for us, also writes with it. We hope he’ll continue to grace the pages of Trail Run Mag with his adventures and thoughts on the world of trail running. Thanks Mal. Beer’s on us. Always.

REMEMBER: nThe latest edition of Trail Run Mag has landed! And it’s free for all you dirt-loving trailites to get an eyeful of the best singletrack tales, mountain madness and back of beyond running you can imagine.

Download your FREE COPY here (right click, save to desktop or go here).

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