"Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but stupid lasts forever" - Aristophanes, Greek Playright
So, this past weekend, me & Moha ran the Oak Mountain Hotter 'n' Hell course AGAIN, trying to get comfortable with the constant ups and downs of going over Johnson Mountain, up the one mile BUMP Trail, down into the Peavine Gorge, climbing out of said gorge, soon climbing up the 20+% grade of the white/green connector, dumping out onto the rocky Green Trail downhill, and finally trudging back the final 1-2 miles to the beginning. And that's loop ONE! Ok, the total 2 loops is only 18 miles (David Tosch "miles"), but there is no way you are crazy about doing loop #2 after winding up at the aid station/finish line after loop #1. But, in three weeks, I plan to do it, as I did last year. I'm getting older and definitely slower, but it does please me that I continue to get out on these trails and try to push all the juice out of the lemon.
But, in addition to getting slower, I seem to be getting more cranky. Now, granted this was the July 4th weekend, and I'm sure that there were a lot of "cityfolk" on the trail over the holiday that thought it would be a good idea to go see Peavine Falls. Ha, that's a good one! First of all, it's a pretty strenuous trek to get to the falls and I'm sure there were many well-meaning "hikers" that reversed course halfway up, and another group that literaly cried when they got to their destination, because due to the lack of rain around these parts, Peavine Falls has been reduced to no more than a very small trickle. Now, for any trail runner climbing down the gorge, this was still a welcome site because the water is ice cold...OH YES!!! The hell with Giardia, I'm dousing myself with this stuff!
OK, so what do I have to be cranky about? It was the disgraceful amount of trash littering the trails. Every week, I'll pick up a few Gu or candy wrappers, or Honey Stinger/Powerbar wrappers (which I know can only be bikers...no self respecting trailrunner can down a Powerbar on a run!). But, this week was crazy. By the time I got to the Treetop Nature Center 8 miles into the run (the 1st trashcan), I had my pockets and waterbelt stuffed with 4 waterbottles, including a 32oz Gatorade bottle, wrappers of all types, plus a large Potato Chip bag! Moha had his pockets equally filled too. I know it wasn't the bikers, because we weren't on the Red (bike) Trail TOO much. And it wasn't trash from the Peavine Falls Run July 4th, because that's 90% on road. And I doubt it's from any trailrunner, because we do respect the trails. Under no circumstances are you allowed to litter. Period. You carry it in, you carry it out. We all know this. In a race, the items you take from an aid station are fine to take on the trail with you, but you keep your garbage with you until you see the next trash can. There is a zero tolerance policy here. Littering is unacceptable. As this sport grows, this is one sure way to ensure races get cancelled by state parks. But, I guess all we can do is police ourselves.
I am amazed by the growth of trail running lately (especially thanks to BUTS in the Birmingham area). We have many new runners joining our races that have never run trails before. In October, the SouthEastern Trail Series will have another free race for Birmingham Track Club members. Last year, it was incredible how many showed up. And they all loved it, despite David Tosch's attempt to discourage them with his usual up-the-mountain/down-the-mountain course. Those of us that have been doing this for a while must serve as a mentor to new trail runners. New trail runners may not know the rules. Tattoos are not a rule...facial hair is not a rule! But, trail running is a different culture than road running. In road running you’re not expected to carry your own water bottle. It’s ok to throw your cups on the ground during a race. In some cases, new trail runners may not know the rules of the trail. It’s our job to coach and mentor.
Birmingham has great trail systems all over the area. It really pained me to see the trash on the trails this weekend. We are fortunate to be able to run in great places. But as this sport grows, each and every one of us has a responsibility to leave only footprints.
As I get older and slower (and more cranky), I keep telling myself that I have to look for all angles to keep myself going. TAKE CARE OF THE TRAILS AND THE TRAIL WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU.
I'll see you on the roads and trails - AL
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