Rethinking what “running” means

by nomeatbarefeet

Instead of being the ultimate priority, running to me became just another skill in the toolbox for getting to the top of a mountain quickly.  If the terrain dictated that I could only use it on the gradual approach, or once I’d achieved a high ridge, or maybe only on the descent, then that was fine.

-Tony Krupicka (TK)

Once you turn to the trails and the mountains you learn that the idea of what it means to be a “runner” shifts and changes. Trail running can often involve lots of walking/hiking/scrambling/climbing. One needs to be aware of the terrain and what is needed at that particular moment. The trail may not be offering you the opportunity to run—you might need to power-hike or walk or hand-0ver-feet scramble some boulders. Does this make you any less of a “trail runner”? I don’t think so. I think that that moniker, which we slap on ourselves, is a multi-faceted phrase that means different things at different times. I love the quote from TK because it captures, so poignantly, what is great about running trails. (Of course, he is talking about mountains…but potato potawto.)

One of my goals for this year is to focus on improving my climbing and descending—really thrashing my quads and calves to improve my ability to take on hills (and possibly mountains). That is why TK is so fascinating (and inspiring) to watch. He has such a love for the mountains; he exudes this kind of joy for being out there. It is a simplistic joy that draws its strength from a minimal, unadorned experience. The environment might be some of the gnarliest terrain around—but he just makes himself a part of it, molding himself into the kind of runner than move forward up the mountain. This simple joy was picked up by none other than Scott Jurek in his book Eat and Run:

We had trails and the fresh air and a little water and food and our fit bodies to move through and with the land. That was all we needed. Seeing Kyle and Tony so happy reminded me that that was all I ever needed, all any of us needed.

I love trail racing—there is no denying the fun, camaraderie, and the rush of pushing yourself against others. But I also love just being out on the trails. I want that love to continue for as long as I live. Like Gordy Ainsleigh, I want to be doing this for many  years to come. I want to just be out there. Trail running doesn’t have to be fast; it doesn’t even have to be running at all. All it has to be is a connection with the trail, with nature, with your surroundings, with yourself. All it has to be is that act that takes you places, and if that means hiking or scrambling or walking then embrace what “running” has become for you.

I have been waiting to post this for a while now–not sure why—but it makes perfect sense because I was subconsciously waiting for Ultimate Direction to come out with this: a feature film that looks at TK’s “running” through the Rocky Mountains. THIS I am excited about. Check out the link to the trailer below to see what I mean. If this doesn’t inspire and motivate you then I do not know what will!

For a first-person view of TK running the mountains, check out this video with him and Kilian Jornet (!) running in the Grand Tetons