When running on roads or sidewalks, I tend to spend most of the time looking ahead, either a few feet down the road or even further. If I’m about to cross from road to sidewalk or if there is a break or curb, then I’ll look down at my feet while I make the change in surface. However, usually, the surface is fairly smooth and regular. So, I usually look ahead to figure out where I’m going to run, to watch for traffic, to make sure I don’t run into someone else.
But, with trail running, things are different. Like I said in my post “Rocks and Roots and Leaves,” when trail running, each step is fraught with danger, some visible and some hidden. While the surface of roads and sidewalks are typically smooth and regular, trail surfaces are completely opposite: there are very few smooth or regular steps along the trail.
So, most of the time, I find myself looking down at my feet when I’m trail running. This tendency has paid off. So far, even though I have tripped or stumbled over a few rocks or roots, I have not fallen yet. Of course, I’ve only run about 10 miles on trails so far.
But, it’s not enough to only watch your feet when trail running. You also must look at the path just ahead of you. Why? Because there are twists and turns in the trail; it dips and rises; there are even trees and limbs to watch out for. If you only look at your feet, you will run into problems, even if you never fall over a rock or root.
But, looking at your feet and looking at the path just ahead of you is still not good enough when trail running. You must also look further ahead. Remember that I wrote about meeting other people on the trail? If you aren’t looking ahead, you may run right into someone else running along the same trail.
Plus, the trail often turns or intersects other trails. The trail that we run (part of the Mountains-to-Sea trail) is marked with white circles (blaze) painted on the trees along the trail. One white blaze means that the trail continues straight ahead. Two blazes means that the trail is about to turn. If you don’t see those blazes, you may end up on the wrong trail.
So, while trail running, for these reasons – and many others – you must keep your eyes on your feet, on the path just ahead of you, and on the trail even further ahead. And, it’s important to watch all three… at the same time… which is impossible of course. So, instead, you glance from one to the other, even if you decided (like me) to spend most of your time watching your feet take each step.
When it comes to where you focus your vision, I think life is much more like trail running than street running. We have to carefully watch each step we take. But, we must also watch what’s going on around us. Finally, we also need to understand where we’re headed.
It’s not easy… some would say impossible. But, if we keep the “eyes” of our lives focused only on one or two of those distances, then we’ll find ourselves in constant trouble.
Spiritual Lessons from Trail Running
- Introduction: Spiritual Lessons from Trail Running
- Rocks and Roots and Leaves
- Leading from the front; leading from behind
- It’s a long, hard road, but we’re running it together
- Meeting other people on the journey
- The Destination, the Journey, and Everything In Between
- Look at your feet; look at the path; look further ahead