This past weekend I finally got some “mountain” time. I use the quotes because let’s face it 3300′ is not a mountain, but work with me here. Yes, I fully admit I’ve become a mountain snob, but I digress. I considered myself lucky as one of the ‘big kids’ from VHRTC wanted to log some slow miles and that’s my speciality.
I pulled into the parking lot and realized that I had two left shoes. Not only did I have two left shoes I had two different models of left shoes. F*$K. Lucky for me I had another pair of shoes in the trunk of the car. Granted they weren’t trail shoes, but they would work, but I wouldn’t be nearly as fast as I could be. I profusely apologized. They were nonplussed. Now, they could have said, “You’re a moron. I’m going by myself.” Instead they were welcoming and warm because “we’ve all done it one time or another.”
As we were trucking along we got to chatting about why I love it out west so much. I told them about the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers and the Sunday runs with Park City Running Company. I told them about how every single run the fast kids take turns waiting at intersections to ensure that the new and/or slow never get lost. I told them about my first Wednesday Wrangler trail run in Park City and how wonderful a specific Wrangler was to me saying in their thick southern accent, “I was a flatlander once too, don’t worry it will come.” I told them about how I don’t feel welcomed at the group runs or events here because I am slow. I told them how the group runs I actually come over prepared with maps (print and digital) because I know that I am going to be left to “fend for myself” and that I always wear my SPOT for that exact reason. I think they were stunned hearing my perspective.
See, when you’re a fast kid you don’t think about these things. When you were fast enough to keep up with the super experienced guys you just learned by osmosis. When you are a slow kid you either stop trail running all together or you learn by making mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are extremely costly.
Then last night on one of the FB boards someone said some things that they shouldn’t have in a public forum about a local race. Instead of not commenting at all, deleting it all together, or offering potential words of advice on how to improve the next time the group turned nasty. I read all 187 comments this morning. Every. Single. One. What I saw were comments like “go back to road running.” These are people I know who individually are wonderful, nice, caring people. However, for some reason the mob mentality took over and it became a free for all. Granted the original poster said some unkind things and should not have said anything in a public forum as trail runners we are supposed to be a supportive and inclusive family. When we are out in the middle of nowhere we depend on each other to ensure that if something happens we aren’t abandoned and left to fend for ourselves.
I recently saw a thread on Twitter from the TAUR board that also said “go back to road running.” They immediately deleted the comment. Trail running is suppose to be inclusive. It’s suppose to be welcoming. For many it is an escape from everything else going on. I think we as a community need to take a step back and do an evaluation. Welcome the new, the slow, the curious. If we want to continue to have space, trails and a future we need new people.