My First Trail Run AND Race!


Thank you to Runner’s World for providing me with free race entry, lodging and travel.

I’ve read about others doing trail runs and races before and thought “hm, that looks fun…and kind of hard.”

By “kind of hard” I thought maybe…like 10-20% harder?

And then I did my first trail race.


RW Trail Run

I think this was one of the “easier” sections.

Trail running = super humbling to this NYC runner used to running on flat, paved roads.

Before the start, the race announcer talked a lot about this race getting you out of your comfort zone, and YUP.

With several hundred feet of climbing, the race was physically difficult for sure, but it was just as mentally challenging, concentrating on not falling.

The race has you start by walking into the woods to get to the start. We looked like some sort of weird cult, several hundred of us walking into the woods…

Zoe and I agreed that we’d take it relatively easy together, it being the first trail race for both of us AND having miles to go (before we sleep) this weekend.

“Like…hike with bib easy,” we said.

Turns out, we did a lot of that.

I don’t want to say I don’t like hiking, but it certainly makes me nervous. I am clumsy AF and too afraid a stray rock will end my running ambitions forever. So I don’t do much of hiking (save for that time I hiked 8 hours after an overnight flight) and am not confident navigating in the woods. And that’s walking. Running through the woods terrified me, but I convinced myself to face my fears, etc.

We started off jogging (even calling it that would be generous) and stopped at the first hill to walk, nervous about killing our legs before the other races we had coming up. At that first hill, some were still ambitiously charging up, but several hills in and everyone else had joined us on Team Walk the Hills.

Trail Run RUnner's World

Sorry for the Blair Witch Project style GIF, but here’s a little sampling of what we ran. (I was NOT looking at my phone while filming because I surely would have tripped to my death.)

I have certainly lost some running confidence and some of the mental fortitude I used to have while running (well, and also some of my running fitness, too, to be honest) and I kept on keeping on with fighting with myself to go on. I’ve never cheated a race before and I never actually would…but I’d be lying if I said one point that doubled back near the finish, that I didn’t contemplate for a hot second hopping out there. I then, of course, continued, but man was that tempting.

internal growth rest quote yung pueblo

Found this quote on IG last night, and I believe it does apply to my running too. While my brain is wrapping itself around grief and job loss, I don’t have it in me to also focus on trying to get faster or even, really caring about my race times. Being out there is enough…even if I do miss Faster Theodora a bit.

I had a bit of a dark moment during the race when I really wanted to give up and thought “if your mom could fight cancer, you can do this hard thing that you chose to do.” And then it hit me in the gut reminding me she was gone and then I really wanted to give up (so maybe that’s not the best motivation tactic for me??) and then felt even worse about how I was doing and instead reminded myself to just keep running.

That’s, of course, when I saw rays of sun streaming through the trees and knew she was with me and watching me.

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There was a nice flat and then downhill stretch towards the end that made me realize why people like these things. It felt freeing running through the woods…and then another hill came. Thankfully, the finish was downhill, and Zoe and I sprinted down the chute, and it was a great way to end.

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Will run for medals.

Runner's World Trail Run Race

Oh, trail runs have pizza at the end?

Perhaps I will rethink this not doing a trail run thing…

Our final time ended up being a sexy-paced 58:30 for 5K. Mostly I’m just excited to be out of the woods and have survived my first trail race without twisting anything badly!

I’m honestly not sure if I’d ever do another trail race again, but I’m glad I tried! You can take the girl out of New York…

Are you team trail running or team stick-to-roads?

7 comments on “My First Trail Run AND Race!

  1. Joan

    So, as someone who grew up in the woods on a five-acre property, the only running I ever did was trail-type running. And I still absolutely love it. The hilarious part is I am SUPER slow on flat ground – like, 12-minute miles if I’m really working as hard as I can – but I’m not much slower than that on trails, so my trail pace is “fast” compared to a lot of people. I’ve been nervous to try an organized trail race, though, because I don’t know how my 35-year-old knees will fare, but you’ve made me really want to do it. (Really, I should’ve done this one, which was about an hour and a half from me!)

    1. Theodora Blanchfield Post author

      Ah yes, that was definitely how I was feeling — there were people passing me that I would have guessed might have been slower than me on flat ground but just beasted past me, and I told myself it had to be that they just had more experience than me with this trail thing 🙂 And yes, you really should have done this race!!

  2. Mandi | No Apathy Allowed

    Way to go! I remember trying a 5K trail race once years ago and thought – “Ha! It’s only 5K!” Little did I realize how HARD it would be, and that was my one an only thus far. I am also completely terrified of tripping on some tree branch or slipping on a rock and breaking or twisting something, so if I’m going into the woods, I generally don’t try to run in them anymore. 🙂 Pizza seems like a just reward for the effort!

  3. Gianna

    I have converted to loving trail races however they can definitely be HARD. And in the trails the distances I find are often not what they are advertised. Recently I did a 16 mile one that was closer to 18 (and 2500+ ft of elevation) and a 20 which was 22 in reality (also crazy elevation) during which I fell multiple times and wound up with poison ivy (or oak who knows!) high along my thigh and butt (its funny now that it’s healed – beware of short shorts in trails). You have to really let go of pace until experienced. The people flying through at 8 min miles always amaze me. When I finished my first 50K – the 50 mile winner was coming through right behind me. Just insane!

  4. Heidi

    Definitely a trail runner here. I am doing a 42km trail run next year in New Zealand. I walked one last year in NZ because I was injured & it was so much fun but I really wanted to run at times so this time I’m uninjured and signed up as a runner. It will be awesome! I have done one road marathon but it’s just not for me (unless it involves an o/s trip).


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