Lately I've been getting a lot of questions about trail running and the transition into competing in trail races instead of road races. First, let me say that prior to this year I only had done a couple trail races, the New Orleans Track Club's Spillway Classic, held once a year in the summer. This year, after doing one trail race held by Q50 Trail Races, my running journey changed forever.
I remember that one of my running buddies, Ben "Santo Loco”, was training for his first Ultra Marathon earlier this year. It was a 39 mile trail race held by Q50 Trail Races in Bogue Chitto State Park, about an hour north of New Orleans. I had followed his training up to the race through social media and was cheering him on to do well at the race. After the race was over, I saw and read how much fun he had at the race and how it empowered him to achieve bigger dreams in his life. When I finally saw him in person, after not seeing him since his last local race, we had a great talk about his accomplishment and about trail races. He encouraged me to try a "Q50 race" and I said I would love it. He also told me that I also have the talent to do well and compete at a high level.
Prior to that talk with Ben, all I knew about Q50 Trail Races was that the race director and founder was always at road races on his bike encouraging and pushing runners to do well. One day, I decided to search Q50 Trail Races to look at their race schedule. When I searched online for the race website, I came across an article about the founder Cesar Torres in Runner's World magazine. After reading it, I fell in love with what he stands for and why trail running is better than road running. I continued to search for the website and found it.
I saw that on the schedule that he had a race coming up soon on the beach in Grand Isle, LA. I took a leap of faith and signed up for the mini-marathon (6.5 miles). After I signed up, within 30 minutes, Cesar called me himself to thank me for registering and said that I would have a blast at the race. Going into the race, I really didn't know how to train for it or what to expect. All I knew was to invest in the right footwear and gear. Race day arrived and I was nervous as hell. When I arrived at the race site, I remember Cesar on his megaphone saying "joining us today from Honduras, Wilfredo... Thank you for coming out today!" That's when I knew this race was going to be different. I saw a few people that I knew from road races and the ones that I didn't know who were very friendly. The atmosphere at the race blew my mind because the only time I felt this way around a group of runners was at one of our "Shake Out" runs on Monday nights. That helped me so much before the race and took all my nervousness away. It also helped me during the race because I was relaxed and was able to focus on the race. I ended up finishing 3rd overall and winning an award. More than anything, I loved the family atmosphere after the race. That stuck out the most to me. On my way home, I told myself that this was a "sign" from God and this was a "calling" for me to run more trails".
After that race, I ended up signing up for the next race called the "Cinco de Mayo" and won the 6 mile event. That confirmed to me that I belonged on the trails. Since then, I've signed up for all the Q50 Trail races up to this point and other local trail races in the area. My most recent trail race was a night race at Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville, LA. I had never run a night trail race yet, but I felt confident that I would do OK. The entire race was in the rain and the course was tough due to the weather. The race turned out to be an awesome event despite the weather and tough course. All who participated had a great time and enjoyed how much fun it was to run on a course with glow sticks leading us along the way. The evening turned out to be one of those running "magic moments" a runner might experience a few times in their running journey.
It's hard to put into words how much trail running is on a whole other level than road running. The more a person runs on the trails, the more it becomes natural. You will get to the point that all you want to do is listen and run in nature, see the beautiful sights and listen to the wilderness as your running playlist. If you're at a point with running that it has become boring, try running on a trail near you. We have a few in our local area that you don't have to travel far to enjoy. I hope this answers a lot of questions about trail running and thank you for taking the time to read this entry. Until we meet again, El Capitan out!