"I got into running to recover. I was burnt out after starting up the Food Wolf and running it full time for three years. It was starting to wear on me. Even though running is the last thing you feel like doing when you’re fatigued and overwhelmed and overstressed and overworked - I got some gentle encouragement that running might be helpful to emerge from that.
I ran before, for about three years just for fun on and off, until something switched. It was only when I was least taking care of myself that running took care of me.
The woods were the switch. I realized that running can be a lot more fun when you do it on trail. Trail showed me that running could be a restorative activity, while pounding pavement sporadically was hard and didn’t always leave me with a good feeling. When I got into the woods, I realized it was a skill I could build over time and it got me hooked in.
I didn’t know there would be such a sense of belonging with a crew until I went into the woods - these people just as wild and crazy as I am who want to go for long runs in the middle of the wilderness. They don’t know you, but there’s a tacit unspoken trust from strangers - whatever happens in the woods, they’ll take care of you.
I really like that sense of belonging. It grew on me, it grew me on trail, then one day I realized the trail crew was the same crew running road, so I might as well just run road.
Now I take two days off and I’m like ‘I don’t know if I can do this!’ You know that feeling? If you take a couple of days off you feel like maybe you’ve never run a step in your life. But it takes a special kind of road discipline to maintain trail.
Trail is really sensory. You could say that a lot of my work in food and my career in public relations is about creating a sensory experience, whether it’s through words or through taste – I live to share those experiences. You have to be present on trail. You have to show up, pay attention a little bit more. You can’t really space out. It’s a lot of positive ions, so it charges you up, it works your entire body in a different way than running road. I find in the woods you always finish strong because you’re outside, regardless of the conditions, there’s something so free about it. You can completely disconnect from everything else when you run trail. Somebody else has an emergency phone, somebody else has a first aid kit. You can leave everything behind and check out, and I need that decompression to show up and perform in other areas. Running trail feeds the other parts of my life.
I’m registered for the Fundy Circuit 50K Ultra and I’m really fucking excited for it. Running trail is like the alternative side of running - it’s becoming more and more popular but it’s still sort of alt – we do things and see things a little differently than road runners. I’m building my whole training plan around the concept of rest and active resting. I’m training for the 50 by sleeping and running more trail. Basically my motto for the next three months is ‘sleep more, run trail’.
So that’s my goal, and then I registered for the East Coast Ultra in Newfoundland a month later, because if I’m going to run Fundy I might as well run Newfoundland - wtf, I’ve never been, why not? It’s a barely manageable stretch goal. To go from having only just started trail running in July 2016 to running an ultra in September 2017 – that’s big. But I’ve learned a lot about how to rest through running. When you get home from the woods you have to actively chill. I’ve always been good at chilling, but I’m better now.
For anyone interested in trail running, I would say approach it with a lot of playfulness and lightheartedness. Enjoy it. Forget that you’re running, you’re not really running, you’re just going through the woods. It’s not about the athletics here, it’s about you being at ease with yourself, finding your flow and being ok alone in the forest.
You’re won’t be going as fast as you think, but you’ll be going faster than you ever thought you could."
Check Nat's headstanding and trail running adventures on insta @nataliechavarie