In the last issue I wrote about why I run, and the solitude and clarity that movement through nature brings. Running for me has never been about community, or seeking a sense of belonging. I enjoy having a running partner, either two or four-legged, but they’re not my reason for migrating towards the trails. In this issue, I continue to explore the question of, “Why?” So, I asked a handful of elite runners in the Pacific Northwest why they run. In doing so, I discovered that while I may not intentionally seek out a connection with others through running, the sport may have its own agenda. The simple act of moving across roads, through trees, and over mountains connects me to those I’ve never met. Our shared need for connection with nature, play, movement, exploration and self discovery, binds us. Running lets us know we belong.
Below are four runners who’ve logged many miles in the beautiful states of Oregon and Washington. In their own words they answer the question of, “Why?” and share some of their favorite trails to explore in the Pacific Northwest.
Ultrarunner and Coach – Ashland, OR
Why do you run? I started running when I was 4-5, and ran laps in elementary school, around the block with my Dad, and to and from school. I started competitive running in 3rd grade cross country, and have been racing ever since. Why do I run? Because I like it.
What is your go-to trail or route in pnw? If I could run any trail in the PNW I would probably choose the Snow Lakes trail into the core area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness outside Leavenworth, Washington. You can continue down to Colchuck Lake, or start from the Stuart Lake Trailhead and do the loop in the opposite direction. The core area is defined by big glacial worn granite, clear lakes and plenty of mountain goats. In late September the larch trees start turning color, and the area alternates between dustings of snow and clear sunny days.
I run, therefore… I eat Trail Butter.
Ultrarunner, Race Director, Coach and Author – Bellingham, WA
Why do you run? Running is my constant. It has been a part of my life longer than it hasn’t. I have a saying, “There are not many issues in life that I want and cannot solve. Just sometimes the run has to be a bit longer.” Running is how I work through, process, and come to a better understanding. It is how I learn about myself, and how I best share who I am with others. Often people say you are running from something. I honestly feel I am running towards both answers and connection.
When did you begin running? I ran track in grade school, high school and college and found ultrarunning my senior year at the University of Washington. Hanging out with the likes of Scott Jurek and Scott McCoubrey at the Seattle Running Company store led me to the trails and longer distances.
What is your go-to trail or route in pnw? I recently bought a home. After moving 11 times in as many years, it feels good to call Bellingham, Washington home again. I chose my place based on location and access. I live less than a block from the interurban trail in Fairhaven which leads me to North Chuckanut trails where I can connect to Blanchard Mountain. Mount Baker, Galbraith, the North Cascades and the Olympic Peninsula, are all within driving distance. I have an amazing new backyard and playground.
I run, therefore… I feel more connected with the landscape, other people and my four-legged trail buddy. My interactions feel more raw, personable and fulfilling. More simply: I eat, sleep, breathe and live better.
Ultrarunner and Woodworker – Flagstaff, AZ
Why do you run? A simple question to a complex answer. I’ve been thinking about this a lot given I haven’t run in over a year due to injury. To say it’s because of activity alone does not suit me. I’ve tried every sport and many of them I like, but it’s become evident over this past year that something is missing when I don’t have running. This isn’t something that I can quantify. It’s social, physiological and psychological. Running affects me in such a multi-faceted way that when it’s missing I’m truly not myself. I guess it’s true when they say adversity defines one’s self. So to answer why I run it’s because it’s ingrained in me, and it’s a way to express myself not only to other people, but to myself.
When did you begin running? I started running at a very tender age. I always knew I had an inclination to run but to say I enjoyed running throughout life would be false. My mom took a coaching position in elementary school, and it was more required of me to run rather than do it voluntarily. I fought to not run, but slowly and methodically I became comfortable with running and in turn, it became who I wanted to be. That all started when I was 5 at Sheridan Elementary in Spokane, WA.
What is your go-to trail or route in pnw? My go-to trail in the PNW is hard to peg down because it depends on the time of the year. Given the high routes are snowed in most of the year I would have to say the Pratt Lake Loop is one of my favorites. It’s easily accessible from Seattle and a couple miles in, you’re running alone in one of my favorite wilderness areas. Your options for vertical gain are endless, and the variations on the run are numerous. If you’re up for climbing and would like to see a bunch of lakes on the way, this loop is for you.
I run, therefore… I am who I want to be.
Ultrarunner and Coach – Corvallis, OR
Why do you run? For me, running is a vehicle for self-discovery. Through running I am able to explore the bare bones of who I am and what I do. Also, as a recovering alcoholic, running is the glue that holds together my recovery program.
When did you begin running? I started running full time in 2012 after I experienced my first ultra marathon. Since that event, I’ve been hooked on the idea of exploring how far I can push my body’s limits, both physically and mentally.
What is your go-to trail or route in pnw? My go-to route in Oregon is the McDonald-Dunn Forest in Corvallis. Lots of elevation, hard steep climbs, muddy descents, and endless trails.
I run, therefore… my mind and body can join forces and new challenges can be accomplished.
Why do you run? I want to hear your answers. Reach out via email or social media (tag your Instagram photos #whyirunpnw) and tell me why you run. Your reasons will be inspiration for future columns in this series.