The trail running community is special. That’s without question to me. When I ran Bryce Canyon last weekend I was reminded of not only how special our community as a whole is, but also how special Kansas City’s trail system is.
The heat at Bryce was tough, and it really took its toll on runners. It was one of those days where I got to experience some reminders of what makes trail runners so special, watching runners selflessly helping one another out throughout the day. It’s something that you’ll consistently see throughout the sport. This race is enormous, and there are people coming from all over. I have never participated in such a large race; there were 1,100 registrants. This meant, that even in a 50M point to point, I was never the kind of alone that I typically fall into during a trail race. That meant lots of chatting. What do trail runners like to talk about? Trail running!
It is so easy to look at other places with epically beautiful trail systems and want to run there. It’s easy to think about what it would be like to have those trail systems as your “backyard” trails. The thing that I began to realize when talking to people, is that often these trails aren’t exactly in your backyard so to speak. The drive time and planning required for some people to get to the trail systems can be significant. I also ran into people that don’t feel that their local systems are either safe enough, or populated enough for them to run alone. (I know that running alone is a personal decision, and I don’t mean to imply that other cities trail systems are not as safe as ours.)
With all of that, I came to realize that I am extremely privileged here. Trail Runner Magazine has listed Kansas City as a top trail town. Outside Magazine has called us one of the best outdoor cities in the country “Don’t laugh: Kansas City might be the most livable city in the country. It has a newly revamped downtown, a low cost of living, and emerging food and art scenes.” I live here, I love it here, and these reviews are making more and more sense.
When I refer to my backyard trails, I mean I can get to several trail system within 15-20 minutes. I have a large trail system that is five miles from me. I can run to it, and I do if I want to split a long run with some road miles. If I want to do a shorter run, say 6 miles, it isn’t a stretch to drive to a trail system to do it. So when it comes down to it, for training, we are able to put in a lot more miles on the trails than would be easy in other places.
It’s also a great place for new trail runners. There are great organized trails groups, lots of races, and a fantastic group, Urban Trail Co that maintains the trails and has a phenomenal website. There are lots of safe places and ways to dip your toe into trail running here. I love heading out on the trails solo and passing friendly faces that I know. It’s a tight knit community. I can always find someone to run with, but really overall, the runners here are my friends.
So then comes the big questions like, yeah, but in the Midwest, how do you train for those gorgeous mountain races that we all ogle?
I am currently training for a mountain race, so not only will we see how that goes, I will post about what my training was like up to the race. However, I will say that what we lack in mountains causes me to know that I can’t screw around with my training in order to just get through a race. I can’t take for granted that I’ll get some long runs in in the mountains. I’m not training at altitude (though goodness do we have the humidity to help supplement.). I don’t have the ability to just run downhill for miles as practice, and I am not someone who can afford to head out a week early to acclimate right now either. Our trails are all right there, I feel safe on them, they afford lots of training on very technical terrain, and they make me want to put in the miles to train for my races.
I’ve always known we were a special community. It was nice to be reminded of it while simultaneously enjoying such a beautiful place.