The community around running at trail races is inspiring; the people, the atmosphere, and the sense of achievement is like nothing else. But, there is a whole other side to running that we can sometimes lose track of - running as an adventure, an exploration, and an expedition, running with no goal other than an idea we have created ourselves.
Simply, running as an adventure is going for a run where the end destination, the route, or the strategy is entirely set by you. It can be exploring a new part of your neighbourhood or surrounding countryside or, if you are after setting yourself a more specific challenge, a race where the finish line is set by you, the route is of your creation, and result yours alone.
Have you ever hiked a trail and wondered, can I run this? Or spotted two distant places on a map and thought, could I link them together? Or, while daydreaming at work, just longed to run something that is yours and yours alone?
Nothing inspires us more than the remarkable adventures of those around us. People who have lit that fire inside themselves, committed to their dream and given it their all. Whether they have succeeded first time or not, they never gave up and they have left their mark not just on history but on their souls as well.
Fernanda Maciel is one of the leading professional trail runners in the world but it is off the race circuit that she feeds that fire inside her. In 2016 she realised her dream of breaking the female fastest known time (FKT) on Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas, at 6,691m, running up and back down the mountain in less than 24 hours. Her commitment to the goal was complete; her training, her focus, and her passion was tested on the remote Argentinian trails. It paid off and has become an adventure that has inspired her to seek similar objectives in the future.
Lizzy Hawker, with 5 UTMB wins to her name, is one of the world’s most successful professional trail runners in history but it is away from the start line that she thrives even more. Her love of the Nepalese mountains has fuelled countless records and fastest known times culminating in her epic expedition in 2016 where she ran the Great Himalayan Trail - some 1,600 km along the length of Nepal, crossing passes over 5,000m in just 42 days. With several previous attempts, the desire for adventure could not be extinguished and she kept going back until she completed her goal. A true adventure spirit.
Whatever inspires your desire for adventure, you will recognise that fire inside you. That light that is lit when an idea strikes you that cannot be extinguished. This does not need to be a mammoth expedition covering hundreds of kilometres nor does it need to be a world first, it just needs to be unknown for you, an exploration into the wild, with an outcome that is not certain.
It is that uncertainty and unknown that feeds the spirit of adventure, the same spirit that has driven people forever to quest on, push further, and drive harder to find their own personal limits and the limits of what is humanly possible.
The key to planning your next running adventure is to pick your goal carefully. Without the normal support network of feed stations and prepared rest-stops in a race, you need to make sure that you are have enough strength and skill to get your through to the safety of finishing.