Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Pleasures of Falling

(Left photo source
Right photo source)

If you run exclusively on roads, you might be a bit baffled by the post title, and I don't blame you one bit. I'm not talking about the impact on the road, that initial surprise followed by the stinging, the blood, and yes, the resulting tears. No one likes to tweeze gravel from a palm or knee.

No, what I'm talking about is the trail fall, where danger is imminent and the adrenaline rush like a hit of speed. I'm talking about that initial stumble, slip, or fall on a trail and the first excited wonderings of whether you're about to get seriously injured, many miles from home. I'm talking about hitting trees or rocks or logs, bouncing off and then taking stock. Lying amidst the leaves and dirt, you assess basic bodily functions, check for blood and broken bones, then get up and take that first step. The first step is like Michael Johnson out of the starting blocks, heart pounding, muscles pushing, lungs gasping for air, as the energy surges through your body. It takes several moments for the brain to convince the body to slow down, that you are only several miles into a long run, and, just because you got away with one there, no need to rush into the next dicey situation.

In the last month or so, I've had two really good falls; in both cases neither injured me anywhere near what I deserved. Several weeks ago, while bushwhacking through the woods of a forest preserve (there was no trail), my foot was entangled by old barbed wire, I tripped and smashed my face into a log. Happily, the log was old, soggy, and soft, so I didn't even get a scratch. This past weekend, I tripped over a root and went down on all fours into some serious muck, also without resulting harm. In both cases, as I charged forward before getting myself back  under control, it struck me what a thrill each fall had been, what a pleasure it was to pick myself up, discover I was uninjured, and move forward.

Of course, the pleasure of falling exists only when the pain and/or resulting injury doesn't impede forward progress - no one likes to get hurt to the point of danger. But the rush and the pain and the joy of still running, jumping up and over roots, rocks, or logs makes the fall a good reminder of what dirty running fun is on the trail.

35 comments:

  1. Ahhh...the pleasure of the fall.
    You crack me up! (but I totally get what you're saying).

    Well done, man!

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  2. Ha! I've taken Many a header on the trail. I've also taken a header in the grocery store, simply walking down the sidewalk, I tend to fall UP stairs but these are not nearly as pleasurable as the "trail fall"!

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  3. This was my way of life in my earlier years. I used to mountain bike and I'm not talking about single tracks. I used to just ride where-ever I saw fit over whatever terrain I found. Many crashes, all of which I got up from and finished (some bloodier than others though). There was a certain adrenaline rush to the whole experience.

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  4. I inveitably fall at least once or twice a year during my trail run expeditions. There always seems to be blood somewhere and of course I wear it with pride. I mean guys dig scars, right?

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  5. Ahh, the fall! That's how I ripped up my hammy in August. Tripping on the trail. no fun! Good thing you're a good writing Kovas because this is exceeding word count.

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  6. Nice! Trail running is worth the occasional falls. And you're such a tough guy, you can handle it. ; )

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  7. My last fall got me 5 stitches and 3 needles....hate needles, have not fallen since...wait, does falling off the wagon count?

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  8. Shawn, if no one gets hurt, why not?

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  9. Christi, guys totally dig scars.

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  10. The last time I fell I sprained my ankle and it blew up to the size of a grapefruit in the matter of minutes. I had to walk a mile or so back to the car. Not fun. But then we went to Disney Land a few days later and didn't have to wait in any lines due to my condition (the rented scooter chair helped). So falling has it's pluses and minuses.

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  11. aaah, the old Disney scooter chair line shortcut, nice thinking

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  12. My worst fall was on trail and really bad. Hit a stone with my sternum and was very sore for months. I must admit I fall quite often.

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  13. That is why trail runners should be required to wear helmets, knee and elbow protectors or better yet, trails should be rubberized, just like kids' playgrounds are.

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  14. Never! Things are too safe as it is. The nice thing about trail running is that people who don't appreciate it drop out and go back to the roads.

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  15. damn trail runners.

    so messed up in the head. ;)

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  16. I really NEED to get out trail running. It sounds like it's right up my alley.

    And as a climber, I totally understand the thrill of the fall :)

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  17. Oh falling.

    Funny thing is that I have never fallen on trails, but I've taken tumbles on roads before. Completely counterintuitive.

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  18. I can't say I love the fall but I do love the adrenaline rush of the trail running. It is a blood sport here in Arizona though. I would not dare to go "off" the trail because of lovely surprises like rattlesnakes and I try not to fall into any "trees or bushes" because here we call them cactus.

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  19. You DO know my training partner Arnie, don't you?? His specialty is the bike

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  20. Kovas, you've taken feelings/words right from my head. It scares the crap out of me when I do it, but I wear them proudly when the battle scars happen. That's why my knees look like an 6 year old. The joy of trails!

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  21. Chicks dig scars indeed, but like JessiePants said...chicks don't really dig them on their own knees/calves/elbows etc.. I fall all the ding-danged time because I'm a spazz, but the yucky scars are totally worth it.

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  22. When I'm out on the trail I have two things in mind:

    1. How long ago I saw the last person (could my screams reach them), and

    2. Best course of action if/when I step on a rattle snake and it attacks me.

    My brother suggests trying to knock myself out with one punch, the internet suggests lying down until my heartrate calms down, then slowly walking to get help, but I'm pretty sure I'd shit my pants and pass out.

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  23. Just a little reminder of how lucky we are to be active and feel alive!

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  24. I was knocked out by a tree once. I am saying nothing more...

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  25. i have fallen or nearly fallen more times than i can count while running/biking, not the most graceful thing around. luckily ive never been badly hurt, and yes, oddly they have all been exhilarating experiences....we are a sick bunch!!!!

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  26. Y'all are hardasses, because while I LOVE trail running and mountain biking, I'm not a fan of the fall. (I AM a fan of showing off my many scrapes and bruises, however).

    "Luckily" I tend to fall on the easiest, smoothest portion of the trail, which pretty by definition lacks the nasty mean rocks and means a softer fall. And on sidewalks, which are unfortunately not soft or friendly. My last running fall, though, was on a muddy trail into a huge pile of leaves. It was like jumping into bed.

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  27. Loved this, especially the last line. What I like more than falling is catching myself midfall and doing some sort of weird acrobatics mid-air, defying gravity and cheating the trail. The trail always seems to get hers, though.

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  28. This is so, so true. When pain exists I just cuss and cuss until the pain goes away. Though, I do risk looking crazy in the middle of the forest hitting logs and screaming...

    Are those your gashes?

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  29. Oh, btw, you're a badas* for bushwacking. I don't have the guts.

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  30. I remember my first trail fall all to well. My ankle has never been the same.

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  31. Not my gashes Matty B, happily.

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  32. I was lucky the last time I fell on trail. The tree my shoulder smashed into prevented me from actually making it all the way to the ground.

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  33. Ha! You are a diehard, and you pretty much convinced me, eh, I don't need to run a "real" trail run! But I love the adventurous spirit of those who do!

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