Fast or slow, just go!
“Plodding wins the race.”
This, according to the victorious Tortoise, is the state of mind that helped him best the overconfident Hare in the timeless fable credited to Aesop, the ancient Greek storyteller. My first introduction to this tale came as a young boy, courtesy of the 1935 Silly Symphony. Produced by Walt Disney and directed by Wilfred Jackson, this humorous cartoon classic unpacks the spirited footrace between Max Hare and Toby Tortoise along a country dirt road.
If you recall the cartoon, the zealous Max zoomed past Toby as the race started. He left the bewildered turtle in a cloud of dust. But he quickly became distracted and subsequently smitten by four young ladies – after a fake nap under a tree to toy with his competitor. And, eager to show off his impressive speed, Max showcased his remarkable archery, baseball, and tennis skills, much to the delight of his enamored fans. His decision to sidestep the race, however, cost him a glorious victory as the slow but steady Toby emerged as the winner to an enthralled crowd.
Plodding wins the race.
On September 2nd and 30th, Tortoises and Hares alike will gather together on some amazing trails nestled in Canton and Blue Ridge, Georgia, respectively. I’ll preface these two races by saying that while it’s very possible to run fast on trails, I’ve discovered that the woods naturally slow runners down. I credit this to the soft dirt, tree roots, rocks, holes, puddles and creeks, tight turns, and a heightened awareness of one’s surroundings. And the view? Spectacular. Every time.
In short, trails are a great equalizer, and my own experience with trail races provides some additional context for this belief. In 2013, I finished the XTERRA Thrill in the Hills trail marathon at Fort Yargo State Park in 3:57:41. Last year, I finished (or is it survived?) the Tortoise and the Hare 50K in Blue Ridge on the Aska Adventure Trail Area in 7:09:53. Five extra miles translated into three additional hours. During the marathon, I felt more like Max Hare; for the ultramarathon, Toby Tortoise for sure. Getting lost, albeit briefly a few times, certainly increased my finish time.
Though my first ultramarathon was difficult, it is an experience I’ll carry with me forever. What’s more, these upcoming races provide a distance challenge for all ability levels. The September 2nd race will feature a 10K and half marathon while the September 30th race will showcase a gnarly 30K and 50K with lots of elevation changes and rocks galore. In the words of Mike Cosentino, CEO of Big Peach Running Co. and three-time finisher of the 50K, “The East has some pretty significant climbing as well. You don’t have to go out West to find a way to get your heart rate way up.”
Keep in mind that the Tortoise and the Hare races are structured in a unique way too. Instead of a typical race where the faster runners start at the front and finish first, the emphasis on these two races is a finish at the same time for everyone! In other words, slower runners will start first and faster runners will begin later in the morning so finish times coincide more and the accomplishments are shared by all!
For the longest time, before I ever knew of Big Peach Running Co., and now as a Guest Advocate for the Suwanee location, I always completed race after race on the road. Miles and miles of asphalt. While this was immensely enjoyable, I came to the realization that I desired a different scene. I desired a different type of running. So – I stepped off the asphalt and the concrete and on to the dirt. Is trail running superior to road running? While there are many who will say “Yes!” without hesitating for a moment, I believe that roads and trails both have their merits. Both are stomping grounds for solid training. But there’s a unique vibe when it comes to trails.
If you wish to become a better trail runner, time on the trails is imperative. What’s more, the softer surface translates into a lower likelihood of injuries. Trail running also shortens your stride, provides an escape from the noise of the suburbs, and contributes to stronger muscle groups. Finally, if you like hills – there are plenty of those to be found at local or state parks – and especially so if you opt for the ultramarathon in Blue Ridge like Mike Cosentino has repeatedly done.
As for the community of runners who gravitate towards trails, this is a unique group. They tend to be more relaxed and less concerned with pace. Finishing the race is the goal. But as I noted moments ago, time on the trails leads to confidence on the trails. And – wait for it – a desire to run faster and get more competitive with others!
Trails are an adventure! They test the mind and test one’s mettle. The time to be challenged is drawing near, so be sure to sign up for a Tortoise and the Hare trail race online or by visiting your local Big Peach store. You are destined to play in the dirt. Whether you’re a Max Hare or Toby Tortoise, hit the woods this fall and go for it!
Austin Bonds is a Guest Advocate at the Big Peach Suwanee location.