The hills are alive with the sound of ultra runners! We shuffle our Salomons and HOKAs, vent about our significant others, talk about upcoming races, and share pet stories. So many cats!
Some cuss, some spit. Some send their snot rockets into the air whilst running. Though incredibly disgusting, your fellow running friends soon recognize how to keep their distance. And that’s pretty cool. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
We call ourselves the Montco Runners. We’re based out of Montgomery County in Pennsylvania, but we have members from surrounding areas. We run roads, trails, and everything in between. Our regularly scheduled Hills v Humans event takes place a couple of Sundays a month. We begin by sharing our race schedules, then complain about the less-than-ideal weather, and eventually give into the fact that we love torture. At least that’s what our non-running friends and family members tell us. “That sounds awful. You have fun with that.”
We are new runners, experienced runners, and total badass runners. We’ve built a community where you can find friendship, running advice, and motivation. It’s a wonderful thing to feel supported by like-minded humans. Those non-running humans in our lives are deeply missing out. Seems they have yet to realize that they too, could enjoy sticky buns, pickle pizza, and local brews.
I moved to Pennsylvania while navigating a divorce. As hard as it was, I found that trail running made my difficult days manageable. Almost three years later and I’m running hills like a beast! I’m a stronger runner and a better human because of the running community that has given me hope and encouragement to be the best version of myself.
The best part about running is discovering how it translates to everyday life. Here’s what the hills (and humans) have taught me.
- It’s okay to take baby steps. Shorter strides are kinder to your legs. Less strain is put on your hamstring muscles. In addition, as you practice stepping around roots and rocks, your baby steps will get quicker and your foot placement on the trails will be top notch. Think about embracing the journey and reaping the rewards later.
- There’s nothing wrong with taking a break. Walking during a race can feel defeating. What I’ve learned is that walking and/or power hiking is necessary at times. It can bring your heart rate down to a manageable level and allow you to continue in a safe manner. In life it’s just as important to take breaks and give ourselves time to think and adapt.
- Asking for help is wise. When doing hill repeats with friends you’re always in good company. I’ve had friends give me a little push, sing loudly to cheer me on, and stay at my side to help me to the top. Doing hard things does not have to be done alone.
- Hard work pays off. Whatever you put into your running is exactly what you’ll get out of it. Same applies to life. That’s easier said than done but refer to lessons 1-3 again and # 4 will seem very doable.
- You’re stronger than you think. You’re more capable than you realize. It was only a short time ago that I never imagined myself running up a ski hill. I also never imagined myself running forty miles. Strength doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. It doesn’t mean you have all the answers. It means you have the ability to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, even when fear and doubt say you can’t.
There’s something about group runs on hills that make life so much easier to navigate. From learning how to get your shoes dirty to useful divorce advice, miles of hill repeats make a person feel capable of anything. Through all the ups and downs, life does not end when things seem impossible. You stand tall at the bottom of the hill. You look up. You put one foot in front of the other and you climb. However long it takes you to get to the top, we will be waiting for you. Or, we’ll be right at your side conquering in numbers. When you reach the summit you will feel brave, accomplished, and immersed in possibility. The humans win!
How does running help you navigate life? Let your fellow running community know what works for you. You never know when your encouragement and advice might help another human run up the biggest hill of their life!