Writer Marc Peruzzi caused quite a stir mid-2019 with his article in Outdoor Magazine, “Trail Runners are Lazy Parasites.” The premise of the inflammatory article was that the number of trail runners is growing exponentially, but not the number of folks who actually care about the trails and want to take care of them. Peruzzi’s prose drew rage from the trail running community, and did nothing to forge better relations between us and the mountain bike community (Peruzzi made clear his thought that bikers are more trail-friendly).
In the new February 2020 issue of Trail Runner, writer Garett Graubins took up the cause of disparaged trail runners everywhere, declaring “We are not parasites!” Graubins went on to outline how, while Peruzzi’s click-bate headline painted all trail runners with too broad a brush, it did cause us to take a look in the mirror and consider what more we each could be doing.
I found both articles had valid points (though, it was hard to get past my raised hackles with Peruzzi’s). One that stood out to me was the issue of runners causing unnecessary widening of trails (thus expanding the human footprint) by going around mud puddles. I see this quite often, and though I try to be cognizant not to do it myself, I am guilty as charged of skirting mud pits once in a while. On my run this morning, I considered how this idea could have larger implications in life.
Think of mud as another obstacle. As active individuals, how many times do we run into mud? Injuries, set backs, personal crises, financial woes… you name it. How often do we wish we could just go around those problems? It seems everyone is looking for the easy way out. The quick diet to help us drop 20 pounds before that class reunion. The fastest way to recover from injury so we can go back to doing the same things that injured us to begin with. How to get stronger without putting in the work to get there. Today’s society is all about taking the easy way out, avoiding the mud altogether. You may find yourself running behind those who would lead you the easy way. You will have those who discourage you, and call you crazy for your persistence (I’m looking at you, Facebook haters).
But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that the mud is what helps us grow. The mud is what makes us stronger. Learning to balance without slipping. Forging ahead instead of circumventing the issue – the mud. Not leaving yourself to question if you could have gone through it, but instead chose not to. Just like that muddy path, experts say we make issues bigger when we try to bury and avoid them. Better to face it head-on.
On the trails and in life, we are each on our own journey. Every one of those journeys will take us through some mud. It’s how we react to that mud that determines if we stay on course or make a sticky situation even bigger.
Here’s to all those going through the mud with me.
P.S. Go volunteer at your local trail.