I’ve always enjoyed running in the woods. On crushed limestone trails. Dirt bike paths. Anyplace not yet overtaken by the seemingly endless creep of concrete and asphalt. I’ve loved the occasional fording-streams-and-jumping-rocks cross country adventure. I’ve appreciated brief encounters with all sorts of wild creatures. Some I’ve slowed down or stopped to enjoy (black bears, deer, coyotes, foxes) and some I’ve sped past/hurdled (copperhead snakes…well, all snakes, actually).
But those thousands of miles were done with specific goals of mileage and pace in mind. I was IN the woods, but I was moving too fast (“fast” being a relative term in my case) and checking my Garmin too often to ENJOY them. And as I’ve aged, I’ve found myself running through the trees and thinking, “Someday I’ll have to walk this path and really check it out.”
“Someday” has finally arrived. Make no mistake about it, though: I will always run as long as I’m physically able. But now I’ll be running to stay in shape for hiking, instead of running to stay in shape for racing. I’ve already decreased my typical annual mileage goal by a third. And beginning this year, I’ll no longer drive myself to maintain a specific pace while running (though I do still have some minimum standards. Old habits die hard). I’m not fretting over lost (and slow) miles due to weather and road conditions. Instead, I’m staying focused on surviving another crappy Maine winter and getting in whatever miles I’m able to run so that I can begin something in the spring that is now tops on my athletic accomplishment wish list: A section hike of the Appalachian Trail.
I worked for a major athletic footwear company for three years, and have been a runner since college when I foolishly tramped through the woods for the first time wearing high-top Nike basketball shoes. I’ve completed seven marathons and numerous shorter races, from 5Ks to 20 milers. So I know a bit about running.
But I know zip about hiking, apart from the occasional day hikes I did as a Cub Scout/Boy Scout back in the days when you had to keep a wary eye out for a hangry T-Rex while traipsing through the woods. So this blog is dedicated to my transition from a running-focused outdoor life to a hiking-focused one. And I’ll gladly share all of the stupid rookie mistakes I make in hopes that I can save others from making them too, and hopefully pick up some valuable insight from experienced hikers/backpackers along the way.
This should be fun…