Two summers ago I wrote a feature story about the Kansas City Trail Nerds, a renegade group of anti-road runners who left paved surfaces behind for the more scenic, more challenging and less joint-jarring backwoods trails.
Tomorrow night, I will join them.
I will be a Trail Nerd rookie, and I’m excited for the challenge.
There aren’t nerves like I had the night before my first cross country practice in high school. That was a much different atmosphere trying to fit in as a 15-year old and wanting to go out and compete.
From observing the Trail Nerds as a reporter (as well as having a few friends who run with them), I know that fitting in will be no problem. Competitiveness won’t be an issue either. I’ve seen them in action. I know there are trail studs I could never keep up with, but I also know there are plenty of runners at medium and slower paces. Every one of them that I’ve witnessed — whether fast or slow or somewhere in between — was laid back and out there to have a good time.
The main challenge of the trail could be running in a large group on hilly, rocky surfaces where footing is already tricky without the extra sets of feet. To prepare a bit, I took a test run on Monday evening on the trails at Shawnee Mission Park. My run was solo, accompanied only by the tunes on my iPod and the glow of the setting sun. I encountered a few Trail Nerds and a group of friendly Mud Babes (the Trail Nerds’ girls club) on the trail.
I ran for about 40 minutes until it grew too dark to safely run (I’d left my head lamp on the counter at home), and came away believing I could have gone for another 20 minutes and still felt good.
Wednesday’s “trail running for beginners” group offers runs of 2 1/2, 4 1/2 and 9 miles. I plan to do the 4 1/2 and see how my legs feel. I think I’m ready for it.
I’ve got my running gear, watch, head lamp, hydration system and well-worn Salomons ready to go. Now I just need a good night’s sleep.
I’ll be a rookie tomorrow.