Messy is Sometimes the Best Path in Trail Running… and Life

Imagine you’re heading out for an easy trail run. The path you’ve chosen is a familiar one. It’s a route you’ve taken many times before, a well-worn single track mostly free of rocks and roots. As you head down the path, it becomes clear that the day of rain that preceded your run has soaked the trail. Within a matter of minutes you encounter a stretch that is completely underwater. You know the ground below the water is smooth, but taking the straight route would mean wet feet and muddy legs for the rest of the day’s run. There appears to be some dry  room to the outside of the water, but it’s full of roots and rocks and right up against some burn hazel.

What would you do?

Now imagine you’re waking up to start the day. It’s a normal day, nothing out of the ordinary, and you’re set to roll through your usual routines. However, there’s a slight problem. The day before, you had a pretty nasty argument with your significant other. Or maybe it was a confrontation with a coworker you see each day that got a little dicey. The path that you typically take as you go about your day runs through these people, and it’s just gotten pretty muddy…

Running offers some outstanding life parallels from which we can learn and grow. Trail running in particular has taught me a lot about the path I choose to take each day.

Life can get messy. We need to embrace that fact and tackle it head on. It’s easy to think that tiptoeing around the issues that lie in front of you is the best way to avoid trouble in life. It’s not. If you’re out on a trail run like the one mentioned above, spending the entire time out on the edge avoiding the muddy water covering the smooth path, you’re simply trading one small problem for others that could have longer-lasting consequences. Taking the sure footing through muddy water will leave you with wet feet and dirty socks. These are problems quickly resolved with an old towel and a washing machine. Taking the unknown terrain around the outside of the path opens you up to a whole other set of problems. There’s an increased chance of rolling an ankle. You’re adding distance and effort to your usual route, leading to more fatigue. The uneven footing is going to cause more acute soreness that will be felt the next day, and can also lead to alignment problems that could be felt all the way up through your back. There’s the chance that you’re brushing up against irritating plants like poison ivy or burn hazel. Depending on the time of year, picking up a tick is a real possibility along the edges of the trail as well.

Such is life.

That argument you had with your significant other? The meeting with a coworker that went sideways? Talk about it directly as soon as you can. It’s going to make for some temporary uncomfortableness, but it’s the sure path through the mud with the best footing that will lead to the least amount of trouble. Trying to maneuver around such issues, like avoiding puddles on the trail, will only cause more problems. When arguments are left unresolved, stress over the situation, anger, and resentment are left to grow under the surface for all parties involved. Much like an overuse or alignment injury from running on uneven terrain for extended periods, you might not think anything is wrong until it’s too late to truly amend the situation and permanent damage is done.

Be slow to anger, and quick to apologize. Don’t try to dance around the temporary messiness that might lie before you. Take the sure footing, even if it means getting a little wet and muddy in the process.  

Happy Trails,



2 Replies to “Messy is Sometimes the Best Path in Trail Running… and Life”

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