It’s going to happen. The Viking Steam Trail. This Saturday. That’s just two days away from now. 25 kilometers; a distance I dreamed about.
Okay, maybe not at night, but for sure I daydreamed about it. Long, long time ago. As I told you, I just started running again, because I was living next to this beautiful forest. When I started, summer 2021, I never expected I would still be running now. For years and years my ankles and feet would start to bother me, as soon as I would hit the 10 kilometers and/or as soon as I would run 3 times a week.
This time everything is different. Or at least, it almost is, because it did go wrong.To be fair, that was probably my own fault. See, I didn’t really believe I could run again. So, when Sara and I started, I just bought a cheap pair of running shoes at Decathlon. Not the best choice, because I know my flat feet need some support, but I didn’t want to invest in running shoes, knowing that I had to stop in a couple of weeks anyway.
In the beginning it went surprisingly well. Mostly thanks to Sara. She is a steady runner, but not a very fast runner and going slow, was precisely what my feet could handle. The other good thing was, we were running in the forest behind our house. That meant nice, soft paths to run on.
With my ankles holding on, I started to run longer distances again, on my own and that’s when I got injured again. See, I wasn’t really running on my own. I would go out on a Sunday together with Sara. Only she would be on the bike. We used Sundays to go sightseeing and to get to know the area where we live a little bit better.
Too much tarmac
I would figure out a route by bike and would run in front of her. It was nice to be outside together, but it wasn’t nice for my feet.
It went wrong, December 5th. We went to the forest next to Hamont-Achel, just across the border in Belgium. I ran 15 kilometers. After 12 my ankle started to hurt seriously. Too much tarmac. I finished the run with mixed feelings. I had a buzz. I couldn’t believe I was able to do 15 kilometers again. Yet, I also had doubts about my ankle. Again.
The next morning what I feared for, was reality. My ankle was still painful and didn’t react the way it should react. It felt a bit numb, like it used to do years ago, when I had to stop running.
I took it easy for two weeks and then went for another 15 kilometers. Same result. So I took a break and concluded that 10 kilometers would probably be my max if I wanted to keep on running.
But I had two more tricks on my sleeve. What if I bought a proper pair of running shoes? A pair with support. And what if I would stick to trails instead of tarmac? Would I then be able to increase my mileage?
Dreaming of trails
Trails have always been something I dreamed of. For the younger runners and those who aren’t Dutch this might sound strange, but during my first running life there were no trails around. Not in the Netherlands at least.
Almost all races were road races. Okay, in winter you had the odd cross, which mostly was a small loop you would run several times. Some pro’s would run cross-country, but most of those races were in Belgium. And those weren’t trail races. It was running loops on a soggy field. Not something a normal runner would participate in.
We’re talking about the beginning of the nineties of the last century here. That’s how old I am. Trail races were rare back then. To give you an idea, the International Trail Association (ITRA), the governing body of trail racing, was only founded in July 2013 and a lot of big races, like UTMB (2003) and Tor des Geants (2009) are less than 20 years old. My first running life had ended by then.
But every now and then I did get a glimpse of a trail. Somewhere in Italy or Latin-America. And whenever I would see it, I would think: ‘Wow, maybe one day I can run one.’
Good in bad
There is always something good in bad things. The good thing for me in getting injured again, is that it has pushed me to run trails, almost exclusively. And doing so, I was able to slowly increase the amount of kilometers I run, not only weekly, but also per run.
The closer I got to 20 kilometers, the more I started dreaming about running 25. I like the number and a lot of races are 25 kilometers or just below that. So, it started to be this magical goal.
July 24 I ran the Leenderbos Trail Run. It was supposed to be a 21 kilometers trail, but it turned out to be 23.2 kilometers, so I already came close to the magical 25 kilometers. But this weekend it’s going to happen at the Viking Steam Trail. I am a bit nervous, yet I can’t wait to start.