I’m not a natural runner. Some people seem to glide across whatever surface they’re running on. I, on the other hand, feel like I’m lifting my feet out of thick mud a lot of the time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love running.
I’ve never been an adventurous person. I’m not sure why, but my temperament is, when it comes to the great outdoors, rather sedate. I’m seriously short-sighted so underwater activities like diving and snorkelling aren’t much fun as I’d need to stick my nose into whatever glorious scene there is just to see it.
And I’m not a fan of heights – which is to say seeing me with my feet more than a metre or two off the ground would be a very unusual occurrence.
I think that’s why my rather-late-in-life discovery of trail running has been such a personal revelation. I can see what’s around me, enjoy the feeling of the wind rushing by, soak in the smells and texture of the world, and feel free of the everyday commotion of life.
That I really love trail running is a bit of a shock to me. I’m not especially agile – during this weekend’s Two Bays Trail Run I stumbled many times over protruding roots and rocks in the trail. And I’ve got more than a few scratches and small abrasions from running past branches and other obstacles.
But when I’m on a trail, I feel like I’m in the world, not just on the world.
The Two Bays Trail Run
The Two Bays Trail gets its name because, unsurprisingly, you run from one bay to another. The race starts on the Dromana foreshore, about an hour south of central Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula. It finishes at Cape Schanck. So, we start at Port Philip Bay and finish at Westernport Bay. That means the runners enjoy some stunning views.
Two Bays only allows 1000 entrants – it’s run in a national park so there’s a lot of concern for the preservation of the natural environment. About two-thirds do the 28km run from Dromana to the Cape Schanck lighthouse while the rest start at Cape Schanck knock over 56km by running the course out and back.
The race starts with a steep incline up Arthurs Seat. Some of the inclines, according to Strava, get over 30 degrees – that’s some serious work. But once I was past that I was greeted with many kilometres of undulations and even some relatively flat paths.
However, there’s a rude shock just a few kilometres from the end – a set of steep stairs that really sucked the air out of my lungs and had my legs burning.
All of that might sound terrible – particularly if you’re not a runner or if you’re happy running along relatively flat roads.
Normally, when I’m road running I’m on my own. Even when I’ve participated in road races there’s a lot of solitude. On the trail, solitude is replaced with solidarity. Faster runners encourage slower ones. Those running alongside are happy to chat. We call out warnings about obstacles. We pick each other up when we fall and check in if someone looks like they’re struggling.
The Two Bays Trail Run is not just a race. It’s an experience. Being in the great outdoors, seeing the stunning views as you run from bay to bay, and chatting with friends old and new, urging each other along – it’s all part of why I’m transforming from a local street runner into someone looking for a little more out of running.
This weekend’s Two Bays was my third official trail race. As well as completing Two Bays twice, my partner and I ran Afterglow – a twilight half marathon along the Surf Coast trail on Victoria’s west coast.
Two Bays is a great event. It’s exceptionally well run. There are lots of volunteers who help refill water bottles and bladders, provide encouragement and cheering and pick up runners that fall and offer all sorts of support.
In contrast, when I’ve run large road events – which are becoming increasingly popular, I’m faced with cramped courses, thousands of runners and little atmosphere. I might as well be a sheep being pushed along a track where I can barely move.
Although I’ll still do the occasional fun run, trails will be my focus. And I suspect I’ll be at Two Bays will be my main event for many more years.