What type of runner are you?

On Tuesday I decided to try an organized lunchtime trail run with some co-workers. Since I just started working here I didn’t actually know anyone, so I was eager to meet some fellow trail junkies. Nothing like finding a friend who shares your addiction.

The posting said “Guided Trail Run,” which immediately gave me a hard on. But it turned out not to be quite what I expected. I feel we need to break down each of these words.


In my mind, this meant that there was a high possibility of getting lost. My workplace is right on top of a canyon so I could totally see myself all mixed up down there (Note: This is exciting for me). I thought the “guided” aspect would allow me to see some awesome trails without actually getting lost. But to my disappointment, we were basically running in a straight line, turning around, and running back.

Even with my horrid sense of direction, I’ve never actually gotten lost in a straight line (knock on wood). So no real need for a guide. This is really nobody’s fault, but I do blame Noble Canyon for spoiling me and getting me lost on my first trail run in San Diego. Now I just want to get lost everywhere.


I have decided we need a new definition for the word TRAIL here. From now on, a trail is a place where I CANNOT run barefoot. Because it’s too rough and jagged and cars can’t drive there and people don’t walk it. THAT’S a trail from now on.

On Tuesday I went out in my Invisible Shoe huaraches expecting rocks and gravel and got a flat, smooth surface. I felt like an idiot for not coming barefoot. On the plus side, now I know I CAN run barefoot at lunch. But it’s not a trail.

We didn’t even go down into the canyon (I think there were trails there). We ran alongside the parking lot all AROUND the canyon without actually going down. For me, looking at a canyon and not running into it is cruel and unusual torture. I did notice some other people (not part of our group) going down into the canyon. They looked happier. So I think I might just come out on my own next time and seek them out.


I have to accept that not everyone runs the way that I do. Some people actually wear watches and keep track of their time. Not everybody stops when they see something interesting. Not everyone tastes leaves that look edible. Not everyone changes their pace whenever they feel like it. And some people stick plugs into their ears so they can’t hear me say interesting things.

The group I was with was aiming for a negative split. I was the only one without a watch and the only freak without shoes. I don’t know what my splits were, but I know the canyon looked fucking awesome and I never got to go down into it.

The guide said because I didn’t have a watch, I should just try to stick with someone. So I thought I would keep pace with the girl in last place, because that way I could encourage her if she needed it. In my mind, we were going to be best friends. But she stuck in her headphones instead.


I’ve seen some articles that come up with cool little lists about what type of runner you are. They give you a name and a description. I can’t do that because I’m slow – it took me 30 years just to figure out what type of runner I was. I can’t possibly write up a box for every other runner in the world.

But at least I can now speak for myself:

I’m a trail runner. And I don’t always wear shoes. I will always be attracted to the person in last place. I’d rather be the last runner who saw a cool thing that everyone else missed, than to be the speedy runner who won the race. I don’t particularly give a shit about negative splits. I don’t always know how far or how long I’ve run, so I estimate when I log a workout.

I like to run until I feel good. Then I like to keep running until I feel shitty. If there’s a stream, I want to splash in it. If there’s a tree, I want to climb it. I feel that people should look up more often from their watches to realize what a fucking beautiful city this is. And how amazingly lucky they are to run alongside a canyon over lunch.

I don’t talk much during a run but I hear everything. I’m not always the best conversationalist, but I do want someone around in case I spot something awesome. Like a bug.

Trail runners are incredible people. They’ll literally take the shirt off their backs and give it to you. Or pour the last of their water into your bottle. They’ll sit down with you if you need to sit. They’ll run when you want to run. Even if they JUST ran. They don’t care who you are, they’ll look out for you.

Trail runners don’t really go to scheduled Guided Trail Runs. They don’t really plan or schedule ANYTHING. They just make their own way into canyons and naturally gravitate towards each other there. Like magnets.

16 responses

  1. I’m more of an adventurer than a trail runner. I started out in 1997 as a Racewalker in Johannesburg and then started barefoot running in San Francisco. Things I like most about ultras: Metamorphosis of the physical body. I am addicted to the rush after the catharsis of an Ultra. I love the euphoric endorphins having run to the top of a mountain in Colorado. I am faster barefoot, but still a slow back of the pack runner. I began Leadville Trail 100 and Arkansas 100 but failed to make the cutoff times at mile 50 in both.
    Some ultras I have completed: Niagara 100 km Ultra and Grasslands 50 miler in Dallas. Things I don’t love about ultras: I don’t like Ultras that repeat a loop. I prefer Ultras that are point to point. What got me started doing Ultras: Natural progression from half marathon to full and then I was not interested to go faster. I only wanted to go further. That is when I started trail and ultra running in Austin joining Tall Pines MAMA (Marathon a Month club). I crewed in Badwater in 2002 for Jan Reyerse (Canadian) and 2003 for Anita From (Princess). I am most interested in multi-day staged races and love to go barefoot as I love the feel of the ever changing earth beneath my toes.

  2. I like your article Vanessa, especially your last phrase… I’m just a road’s barefoot runner, even if I like occasionaly run a bit on trails… I imagine your canyon and your awesome feeling to run here !! Happy for you and all your friends, run free and fun !!

  3. I just completed my first trail 50K on Sunday. I run some road marathons and some trail ones, and after the race, a friend asked what I though the differences are. And basically what you said in this post is what I told him. I really love both sides of running : trails and roads. But they are just soooo different! :)

  4. Wow! Great article Vanessa. Looking forward to meeting you in person (and possibly running Nobel Canyon with you) and hoping you can turn me into a “trail runner” too. Love your perspective on life and running.

  5. LOL. Did you really type “immediately gave me a hard on?” I’m with you on seeing a canyon and having to go in it…especially after visiting the Grand Canyon. It’s just not a proper canyon experience if you only view it from the rim. Of course, with Zion National Park, it’s reverse. :-)

  6. Another great post Vanessa! Just so you know, I’ll be the one in last place at the Med-City Marathon, so you can run with me!

  7. Vanessa, What can I say, I feel ya here and a great post. Especially the “Run” part as I really get your thought process. The “tastes leaves that look edible” shit, I thought I was the only nut out there on the trails! I am so glad that I threw out the earplugs and music and started seeing, hearing and tasting the trails

  8. AWESOME post!!! You and I would get along perfect!! I have never owned a Garmin and in 30 years have never taken a watch running! The only reason I hurry is b/c I have to get to work. I lOVE your spirit!!

  9. This post actually made me a little sad, what dinks go on a group run just to wear headphones? RUDE. I saw a couple walking down the street the other day, they were walking hand in hand but each had their own set of headphones plugged into their own iPod on. So weird.

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