Editorial: Mix’n’match

This editorial appears in the latest edition of Trail Run Mag (Ed #18), downloadable for FREE here. You can also purchase a subscription on iTunes for your iPad/iPhone or Kindle Fire.

Have you ever bought a new car, perhaps something slightly unusual, and all of a sudden that’s all you see on the roads?  Suddenly all you see are burgundy Toyota Tercels everywhere, like a Clone War of obscure imported All Wheel Drive station wagons?

What about a new sport?  You start rock climbing and you start to see routes everywhere.  Every bluestone rock wall along the highway becomes an imaginary red point, every mountain a wonderland, every quarry a vertical playground. Familiarity and an increased interest in a subject prepares our subconscious mind and more readily attracts our conscious attention.

Long before I was a trail runner I was a hiker, climber and surfer; a generalist.  Impatience inspired a natural shift from long hikes to fastpacking and then trail running, but the passion for being in the outdoors, comfortable and physically able, never left.  Every hiking trail became a running track and campsites spread along multi-day hikes became water stops on a long run.  Looking at maps was like a visual-learner’s version of Choose Your Own Adventure.  The pause between ridgelines, peaks and rivers was henceforth measured in hours, not days.Mt Buller

While the outdoors came first and the running second, I often forget this proper order of things.  As I’ve spent less time working in the field (hiking, paddling, educating) and more organising other people’s trips and training for trail races I’ve become more specialised.  Specificity has had a positive effect on my pace but has resulted in broader limitations and repetitive stress injuries I’d never even heard of.

Over the last few months I’ve been reminded of a number of subjects I’d previously studied but had largely forgotten: Phil Maffetone; Natural Movement Training; and a Renaissance approach to life that assumes specificity = stagnation = death.  Reading Christopher McDougall’s (of Born to Run fame) most recent book, Natural Born Heroes, has perfectly tied them all together.  Fascinated by the connections, I now can’t help but see Toyota Tercels everywhere I look!maffetone

For those who don’t know of him, Phil Maffetone (right) is an old hippy musician with a snow-white pony tail who just happens to be one of the all-time great endurance coaches. He coached the likes of Mark Allen, Mike Pigg and Stu Mittelman at their peak and has worked to improve the endurance of everyone from stealth bomber pilots to Formula One drivers and musicians like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and super-producer Rick Ruben.  In short, his approach goes like this: develop your aerobic base (with a heart rate monitor as your guide), eat well, reduce stress, improve brain function.

Natural Movement, a concept largely developed by Frenchman Georges Herbert in the early 1900s, was based on the idea that:

The final goal of physical education is to make strong beings. In the purely physical sense, the Natural Method promotes the qualities of organic resistance, muscularity and speed, towards being able to walk, run, jump, move on all fours, to climb, to keep balance, to throw, lift, defend yourself and to swim.

If this sounds like parkour or an obstacle course race, you’re spot on. The founding father of parkour, David Bell, is known to have drawn heavily on Herbert’s work and philosophy.  While the parkour videos you see on YouTube are normally set in urban environments, there’s a rapidly expanding community applying the same concepts to natural environments and physical training in general, regardless of the environment.  CrossFit, while perhaps the best-known, is just one of a growing number of generalist approaches to physical preparedness that shun specificity.  The incredible explosion of Tough Mudder and Spartan Races is another expression of changing attitude.

I love running trails and I identify as a trail runner, but I’m afraid I’m paying for specialisation with my health and wellbeing.  Over the last few months I’ve been training for an obstacle course race and a freaky hybrid called the Survival Run.  The training has involved a good amount of running to rebuild my aerobic base, but it’s been mixed with climbing, lifting and carrying.  Survival Run even has me sewing, working with leather, crafting packs and (to my girlfriend’s raised eyebrows) learning how to swing a machete.  All I can see when I look around are opportunities for movement, adaptation and improvisation. Welcome back to the land of the living, the thriving, the capable!

In the next edition of TRM I’m examining the cross-over of OCR and trail running and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Your mix-it-up or die AU editor, Tegyn Angel

This editorial appears in the latest edition of Trail Run Mag (Ed #18), downloadable for FREE here. You can also purchase a subscription on iTunes for your iPad/iPhone or Kindle Fire.

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Ed’s word: choices of an Angel

Larapita new (1 of 1)-6 medGrowing up I was interested in a lot of things that my peers weren’t and a fairly mundane chain of decisions led me to university.  I’ll never forget going back to the town where I grew up, having a beer with a mate who’d decided to be a tradesman.  He couldn’t wrap his head around how I could “be so smart”.  That is, how I could get through the lectures, readings and assessment involved in being a tertiary student.  I tried to tell him it was simply a choice I’d made, that the only difference between him and me was that I’d decided to go to uni and he’d decided to be a tradie.  Clearly there’s a whole lot more to this; preferences, loyalties, priorities, nature, nurture etcetera, but in the end it all comes down to a solitary decision made at a particular juncture of life.

After leaving university I spent some time working an office job, moving freight around the world, sitting behind a computer.   My vision was to end up a logistician for some aid organisation in some ridiculous, undefined humanitarian crisis.  I couldn’t hack the office life and so chose to become an outdoor instructor and guide.

For the last four or five years I’ve travelled and worked around the world, living from a backpack; a sparse and lonely life recorded in the idyllic photographs that I chose to put out into the world in order to tell my story.  Again, my friends and peers begged to know how I’d managed to find the dream job, how the hell I get paid to travel.  I tried to tell them it was simply a choice I’d made, that the only difference between them and me was that I’d decided to become an expedition leader and they hadn’t.


When I first ran a mountain in the foothills outside of Santiago de Chile, in part it was because I was embarrassed at how hard I’d found a recent class hike.  I was on a student exchange and enrolled in a mountaineering subject and had struggled to keep up with the rest of the group.  That led to a decision. I chose to be fitter and more capable in the outdoors.

When I first ran an ultra it was because I wanted to do a multi-day hike and was impatient with how long it was going to take me.  I chose to train to the point where I could run it instead.  Those members of this obscure family of trail and ultra runners are often asked by outsiders how we’re able to run for hours, away from the comfort and security of urban spaces, through the night and extremes of weather.  We try to tell them that it’s simply a choice we’ve made, that the only difference between them and us is that we’ve decided to be trailrunners and they haven’t.

For me this issue of Trail Run Mag represents the power of decision.  The incredible results of choosing to run the length of Tasmania; the strength that comes from deciding the battle with illness and disease is one worth fighting; the decision to respect a millennia of culture and custodianship in spite of our individual goals; the apparently ludicrous plan of running 50 off road marathons and climbing 50 peaks in 50 days.

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Every article in this issue represents tells the story of a decision made by those with enough self-belief to move toward their goals and dreams.  Don’t spend your days wishing you were someone, or somewhere, else when all that really stands in your way is a decision.

As Goethe wrote, “Choose well.  Your choice is brief, and yet endless.”

Your decisive editor, Tegyn Angel

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.