My Trail Running Journey
My name is Catherine Aird, I am a 47 year old mom of three, social media coach and marketer based out of Whistler, British Columbia. I have decided to do lace up my best trail running shoes and run a 50 km trail before I turn 50, or even better, by the end of this summer. There, I’ve said it to the world, now there is no turning back. I am so scared.
I have been running since I was in high school
Permission was granted to skip French class to go to track practice when I was in high school.Trail running is a whole new level for me. I’m afraid of the pain, of the terrain, of getting lost, of not being able to move forward anymore, of letting my kids down and yes, of being too old to make it.
Why on earth would I decide to do such a thing?
I blame it all on this amazing woman, Jen, and on the pandemic. Jen was the initial spark. She stood up years ago in a yoga/goal setting class and announced to us all that she was going to do just that. Run a 50km race. I remember thinking that she was completely nuts, but I loved the spirit and the idea of setting big bold goals for ourselves.
I was inspired to run my first 50km trail run during the pandemic
In January 2022, despite all our efforts at “doing the right thing” my family got struck by Covid-19. As I was lying in bed, barely able to get up, I swore to myself that when could move again I would pin a race bib to my chest and sign up for something grand. All of a sudden there was this sense of urgency. As a result of feeling so sick, nothing could be taken for granted anymore. Our health, the ability to travel, to move freely. The time was, is now. It had been years since I had last competed at anything but I needed an event to push me, a date to lock it in.
The 25km P’ayakentsut Nordic Skate Ski race at the Whistler Olympic Park on February 26th 2022 was my first big scary event and it went surprisingly well. It was hard, but I did it and enjoyed the sense of accomplishment. Even more so, the training allowed me to go further and faster up in the mountains, exploring new terrain. Finding peace and fresh air in the trails of the Callaghan Valley.
Maybe, just maybe, I could try something hard in the summer
What Motivates Me
As I raised three kids and built my business, I used various running races to stay motivated, push my limits, and have a decent reason to sneak out of the house. I started with the super fun Seawheeze half marathon in Vancouver and eventually moved on to some trail/mountain running races in Whistler. Some biggish runs, but never more than 25km.
Of course, having such spectacular terrain in my backyard makes it easy to get off the beaten path. I love losing myself in the mountains (sometimes literally) discovering new trails and being rewarded by breathtaking vistas. There is something special about the smell of the forest after the rain and the thrill of reaching a summit.
Beginner Trail Runner? I’ve got tips for you
People often tell me that they find trail running intimidating, especially in the mountains. They are afraid of the wildlife, the steepness of the terrain, the unknown. I totally get it. Here are some tips for beginner trail runners:
1. Get the best women’s trail running shoes you can find.
Get good trail running shoes. This is so important for your body and for your safety. You want shoes that will offer a good grip on rocks and wet roots, or whatever terrain it is you’re running on. The best trail running shoes are the ones that allow you to run without foot pain, and feel in control. Try before you buy – all shoes fit slightly differently, even those from the same manufacturer. And bring your trail-running socks (ankle length with a bit of padding) when you’re trying on shoes.
I like having two pairs of runners. One with a stiff sole for rocky terrain and one pair that can be use both on pavement and normal trails. I alternate, depending of the route. I also find that switching trail running shoes while training for longer distances helps my feet and body recover faster.
Find the Best Trail Running Shoes
2. Start Small!
Whether you are an experienced trail runner getting back into it after a pause in the winter or starting your journey off road, start by walking / running and running shorter distances. You want to allow your muscles and all the little ligaments and tendons to get stronger. Gradually increase the distance weekly.
3. Always Plan Ahead
Plan. Plan your route, bring what you will need, and let someone know your route and expected ETA. When I’m in a city I like looking at Google maps satellite view and finding green space close to where I’m staying. In the mountains I refer to hiking and mountain biking maps. If I’m planning on running in the mountains, I try to fit most of the “Adventure Smart 10 Essentials” in my running vest.
4. Team Up With Other Trail Runners
Team up! Trail run with a friend or join a local group. Ask a running store, or search Facebook groups for events in your area. Don’t be shy, there is something for all levels.
5. Register Fast For Trail Races
Most local running races here sell out in minutes, but there was this beautiful coastal trail I had noticed on a surf trip with the kids on Vancouver Island. At 47km and 1,828 m (5,997 ft) elevation gain the Juan de Fuca was calling my name.
Training For My Juan De Fuca Trail Goal
My husband says I’m crazy but I do believe in the Universe. I believe that when you set yourself a goal, all of the sudden you start noticing tools to reach it.
For instance, as I was walking my dog with the kids to the school bus thinking about how great it would be to be able to run Juan the Fuca Trail but having no idea how to do it, I thought about this incredible athlete (Oliver Kennedy) who had given some fascinating sessions on long distance running.
The Universe Has Your Back
And there you have it, the Universe delivered. I turned around and Oliver was standing next to me, coming out of a driveway at 7:30am in the morning mist. I hired him on the spot.
I am scared but excited.
I have a big goal, a good trainer, the support of my family and so far I’m still standing. As I shared some insights on my soon to be training schedule (including 4-6 hour runs followed by sprints the next day… O M G ) I was told that I should quit, that I was too old to do such things and would get injured. It broke my heart but also gave me a little extra motivation. If I can do this, maybe others will be able to forgo the voices telling them “no” and have them reach their goals?
Listening to my body is so important!
I respect and listen to my body and my trainer. Slow and steady, one step at a time. When I get tired I think of how lucky I am to be healthy and I run for all of those who can’t.
I hope that my story will help light a little spark in someone’s mind. If it does let me know, I would love to follow you in your journey. You can follow mine on Instagram @catherineaird 50kmUpdates and discover some Whistler trails on my blog at catherineaird.ca.
Happy trail running!