Not long ago, I took part in my first trail 10K run with the SouthEast Road Runners on the East Glacier Trail. The terrain was rough. The runners were friendly. The overall experience was, well, breathtaking.
A trail 10K run is a far cry from the road 10Ks I have participated in during my on-again-off-again running career. Instead of running down city streets lined with cheering supporters, we were running through trees with our eyes and ears open for bears. Instead of avoiding water cups discarded by runners in the middle of the street, we were hopping around rocks and puddles in our path. And instead of running up a slight incline somewhere in the middle of the race, we were running (or crawling, in some cases) up stairs. Lots of stairs. Thousands of stairs, maybe.
As I said, it was breathtaking.
I always knew that Juneau offered some great trail running. What I didn't know was just how much effort this Juneau-style running involves. The first trail I explored after I decided to see what Juneau has to offer was Perseverance, a 6-mile route that, according to the "Juneau Trails" guide, is easy and in excellent condition. It would have killed me, but I was saved by a convenient excuse: It was my first time up the path and the weather was great, so I really had to stop on nearly every bridge to take in the view.
My second time up Perseverance was easier, and my third trip easier still. Other trails, such as the Mount Roberts Trail that connects the end of Sixth Street to the tram, posed much more serious problems for my lungs and my legs. I quickly learned, though, that walking up a trail and running down can be enough fun for me, depending on its steepness.
Despite the challenge that nearly every trail I'd run had posed for me, the Road Runners' East Glacier Run was too hard to resist. Six miles? I can do that. On a trail? Sure how hard can an organized race be? What I didn't take into account is the fact that the Road Runners people have been running these trails for a lot longer than I have, and they're crazy. They must be. Only crazy people would take a pleasant, beautiful trail (that also happens to have a few stairs) and voluntarily run on it. Only crazy people think this is fun. And only crazy people are in good enough shape that they run the trail faster than most people run a road race and claim that they were taking it easy.
I must be crazy too. True, I hadn't read the "Juneau Trails" description of the trail (difficulty: more difficult; condition: good), so it can't be said that I knew what I was getting into. But I must admit that the race was fun. Really fun. After I had finished cursing hills and stairs and the people of SouthEast Road Runners, somewhere around mile 3, I took advantage of a relatively flat stretch of trail to look around me. Not only did I feel great, strong and healthy, I was also running next to a beautiful glacier framed by yellow and green foliage. Then I remembered the rule that what goes up must come down. This is why people run hills!
I still haven't completely caught my breath from the experience. Road Runners, sign me up for the Turkey Trot I'll be ready. Just try to do something about the stairs this time.