There is nothing easy about the trail.
It swerves and slopes, a different terrain at every turn. You will trudge upwards, downwards, through water and dirt, across paved paths and wild fields. Loose rocks, shifting soil, and scattered branches will betray you, slowing you down or tripping you as you go along your way. And the sun, at its peak, will be in your eyes, on your neck and back, scorching your sweat-soaked skin.
But I already knew this going in. Yet there I was, back at the Salomon X-trail Run starting line, a 12K trail – six more than last year’s – looming before me. Why go back? It isn’t a question I can answer with words or even pictures, but let me try.
Running was never my forte. When I was younger, it was not even an exercise I considered doing on a regular basis. Running was boring, I told myself and to anyone who bothered to ask. Running wasn’t as fun as dancing or swimming or gymnastics (at least for me).
Then, I was introduced to trail running. It combined running and the outdoors, which I loved. Running under a canopy of leaves, across soiled ground, and up a mountain offered an image too difficult to resist. You weren’t just running towards Mother Nature; you were running away from the dizzying pace of everyday living, away from unnecessary stress, from deadlines, client calls, and city life, in general. To me, trail running became the escape I needed, the responsibilities and voices in my head falling away with every footfall. The only competition I had was with nature, its unpredictability a true obstacle and challenge. And wasn’t that a worthwhile endeavor?
The trail is addicting. I was reminded about it again at last Saturday’s Salomon X-trail Run at the Subic Freeport Zone. I saw it in the participants’ faces and expressions after they crosse the finish line – the way they laughed at their muddy shoes and soiled clothes, the way they talked about the challenging sections of the trail. The energy was palpable, pulsating in the hot, humid air. Some of the stronger athletes even had the audacity to take part in CrossFit activities set up by the brand like “most number of squats” or a team relay race involving lunges, leaps, and other exercises. (Meanwhile, I was sitting under a tent, trying to muster up enough strength to stand up and walk across the field to get my free food).
Photo from Facebook.com/SalomonPhilippines
Going downhill was the hardest, someone had said over the mic at the post-race program. You could either walk it off or take the risk and run the whole length, but one misstep could send you sprawling down the slope. Round and round you’d go. In fact, one of his companions had done so and taken a rough fall. I could only hope as I heard it that he was okay.
At the end, though, there was only the sense of accomplishment at having taken on a beast of a trail, regardless of whether you made the cut-off time or not. There were winners, definitely – top racers who zipped their way through, undaunted by the road, the sun, and the time limit (the first placer for the 32KM Men’s Division, finished at a record 2 hours and 40 minutes!). But even the concept of a “winner” is fluid and flexible at a trail race. One could consider the 6KM-run of a 62-year-old woman a real triumph. Or a first-timer’s attempt at the trail an endeavor worthy of a medal. I guess it’s safe to say that most of those who participated were simply happy to have run and earned the title ‘Finisher.’
Surprise at the finish line: A mud obstacle was the final challenge of the Salomon X-trail runners
Photos from Facebook.com/SalomonPhilippines
The trail is never easy, but it has it charms.
It swerves and slopes, a different vista at every turn. It will take you upwards, downwards, through water and dirt, across paved paths and wild fields – places away from the madding crowd. Loose rocks, shifting soil, and scattered branches will challenge you, testing your resolve and ability to think on your feet. And the sun, at its peak, will be in your eyes, on your neck and back, causing your sweat-soaked skin and face to shine as you cross the finish line.
About the Salomon X-trail Run
Over five years since its inception, the Salomon X-Trail Run continues to be the most anticipated trail running event throughout the Asia-Pacific Region. It is known for mounting the most challenging and scenic trail running races that feature a mixture of different terrain surfaces, including vertical ascents, long uphill climbs, with multi-surfaces of dirt, rocks, sand, and concrete paths.
In the Philippines, the Salomon X-Trail Run has been held for five consecutive years, in exclusive venues– ensuring that the race venues not only demonstrate the majestic beauty of nature but also, offer participants a stimulating and unique trail running experience. This year, the run was held at the Subic Freeport Zone in Zambales.