serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

National Trail Running Day August 21st

posted by Chris Barber

national-trail-running-dayI started National Trail Running Day last year because I love trail running and I wanted to share my love.  So there it is, I love Trail Running and I’m not scared to admit it.  Although, it wasn’t love at first run, my love grew.  First, I was a track runner middle school, then a cross-country runner in High School, then a road runner in college, and I finally became a trail runner in my first job after college, United States Army Officer.  Every morning at 630 my unit would venture out into the forest of Ft. Bragg, NC trails.  Running is what defined many Army Officers and I was serving in the 82nd Airborne Division which prides itself on being the most fit unit in the Army.  Just to pass Airborne School you had to complete a run test that many could not conquer.  So the leaders in the 82nd were expected to be fit; and there is no greater test of physical fitness than a long run in the woods.

One of the reasons I joined the Army was that I love  the outdoors.  Running trails in the morning was my favorite time of day while serving.  The early morning dawn coming through the pine trees, everyone trudging through mud and sand; an exhilarating way to start the day.  It was a time to reflect on the task in front of you while also pushing your body to its limits.  At the time I didn’t even know trail running was becoming a sport of its own, I just knew that exercising in a natural environment made me happy.

army-platoonAfter two deployments and over four years of service I separated from the Army to take on new challenges.  At the time of separation I had to decide where I wanted to live, which graduate school program to attend, and what type of job I wanted.  I had gone straight from college to the Army and up until this point, the Army had always told me where to live, what schools to attend, and what job to do.  I now faced some major life decisions for the first time.  I was up for the task though, I had been a Platoon Leader in Iraq conducting combat missions and making decisions effecting 30 men’s lives.  I was used to making important decisions.  However, I quickly learned that these new decisions that lay ahead of me were much different than the quick, reactive decisions I was used to making for the Platoon, now I had more time, more variables, and the decisions only effected me.  I began working on these decisions with the same fever as if I was still deployed, working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I was maintaining my work-out schedule, but I was often drained and exhausted, running on fumes. (pun intended)

I continued on this pattern for 3 months straight before I finally broke down.  I stopped everything.  I had reached my decision benchmarks and now I could relax.  Slowing down forced me to think and understand everything that was happening.  I realized I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  Was this the path I wanted to take?  I had quickly made all of my life decisions and began executing them before thinking if they were truly making me happy.  I quickly became depressed under the weight of my ignorant direction.  While in the Army I had such great responsibility, respect, and prestige for what I was doing.  All of a sudden it hit me, I was just like everyone else.  But I wasn’t like everyone else; I was a civilian with no valuable skills, specific direction, or contemplated long-term goals.  I had to reinvent myself.  Not knowing how to attack this problem I started running more.  Training gave me goals to work toward without life changing commitment.  I decided to start each day the same why I did when I was in the Army, starting with a trail run.  Eventually I decided to stop doing the job I had picked only because I had to pick an industry for my MBA applications and started doing something that I love; running and writing about running.  That is why I started with my brother and later National Trail Running Day.

National Trail Running Day is a day to celebrate the benefits of Trail running with runners taking to the trails of varying difficulties and distances, connecting with nature and the environment, slowing down their lives and getting back to the basics.  For more experienced runners, Trail Running offers a more technical version of road running that allows runners to challenge themselves.  The fact is, everyone can enjoy Trail Running and National Trail Running Day is a great way to increase awareness of the sport.

Trail Running changed my life forever and it could do the same for you.  Take a friend trail running on August 21st, 2010 and enjoy the trails.  It’s all about happy trails.



  1. [...] National Trail Running Day August 21st || Serious Running Blog || by Don Swinford on July 20, 2010 National Trail Running Day August 21st || Serious Running Blog || [...]

  2. Kenley Jones says:

    Thanks for sharing to us about yourself and your past. I was in the USAF, enlisted, and whilst I was in basic training I signed up for PARARESCUE and was quickly eliminated. I barely passed the running requirements and miserably failed at the swimming albeit I swam almost daily at the beach. That, was 17 years ago. I started taking up running again just a year and a half ago happily married to a very supportive filipina wife. In my previous marriage, I had gained a lot of weight. Needless to say, in the past 1.5 years, I have lost 50 pounds and feel better. I could not run even .25 miles on the treadmill. Now, I just ran a good 9.6 miles at a decent clip. I do not do trail running full time, but I love to get out on the AT every now and then. After my Half in Sept, especially when the weather cools off a bit, you can bet your bottom dollar I will be hitting the trails and finding new ones, making new ones, etc.. I can not express enough how invaluable your tweets and this website are to me. Although I do not leave comments on every single post I do read and visit here often. I will, however, in the future, practice my commenting skills. lol. Running for me has completely changed my life in terms of having the attitude to be able to achieve anything I put my mind to. That is why I have decided to go back and get a degree in Information Sciences and Technology starting this Fall. It might be a slow process, but I did not go from running .25 miles to 14 miles in one day. Thanks again for all of your support and dedication to the sport of Trail Running.

    Kenley Jones
    Dillsburg, PA

    P.S. – Though I might not be able to make it to an actual race, be assured that I will be out on the trails that day.

  3. Chris Barber says:

    Hey Kenley,

    Thanks for the kind comments! I too enjoy reading your blog and tweets. I love hearing about your journey to a serious runner from not running at all and being out of shape. I agree, the value in a good running regiment may not be in the increased fitness and weight loss, but more for the increase in mental toughness, determination, and dedication.

    Good luck with your studies in the Fall. Getting a degree is definitely a marathon, not a quick jog.

    Happy Trails,


  4. Kelly says:

    This is a great idea! I couldn’t locate any local event on the 21st (Houston area), but just as well. My club’s annual running pub crawl is that day. I will definitely hit the trails on the 22nd though.

    Thanks for your service, Chris. I was USAF myself. Began running in boot camp and I’m still a runner today, 35 years later!


  5. [...] are you going to celebrate National Trail Running Day this Saturday, August 21st?  One way could be to run an ultra.  What, you haven’t [...]