The wide spectrum of trail-running types within the community is as spread out and atypical as the trails they run on. The oldest participants in the series are in their 70s, while the youngest appear barely old enough to venture out into the woods by themselves. An advantage to losing steam mid-race, I found, was the opportunity to carefully observe each different type as they passed me by.
FOREST WARRIORS: Instead of donning the traditional cross-trainers that just about everybody runs in, the Forest Warrior wears a funky pair of “skins,” a shoe-like apparatus also referred to as “minimalist shoes.” These shoes are essentially form-fitting socks with a thin sole of rubber-type material; each toe is individually wrapped, like an alien toe glove. Forest Warriors argue that running trails in standard sport shoes can cause problems, which these socks prevent. They believe running in a pair of skins allows the feet to function more naturally, mimicking our barefooted ancestors who, thousands of years ago, ran away from saber-toothed tigers with natural, bipedal ease.
AMAZONS: Tall and lean, the Amazon moves through the woods with an almost defiantly natural grace. Pacing myself just behind one such character in the Haw Ridge run, I watched in silent amazement as she hit a slick patch of earth and took a bad fall somewhere around the grueling race’s mid-way point. It was a crash that would have humbled even the strongest and hardiest of athletes. This woman, however, merely got up, gathered herself, and then quickly disappeared into the forest trail. Indeed, any normal man or woman would have packed it all up at the point and limped back to his/her car. Not the Amazon trail runner, though.
TERMINATORS: These cagey, military-type characters are built like dangerous weapons apparently designed for both silent assassination and up-tempo trail running—a runner known for their wraparound mirrored sunglasses and their insane, virtually impossible-to-keep-up-with, breakneck pace.
EARTH RUNNERS: They typically don wild-looking boxer shorts and barely touch the ground when running, their thick blonde dreadlocks matted against tangling vines and other forest appendages. These creepers are also a difficult runner to keep up with, for they are typically running in their own private vision quests in alternate, unreal universes.
ULTRA COMPETITORS: Kerry Trammell, a veteran ultra runner, has been running marathons for over 13 years. An ultra runner, by Trammel’s definition, is someone who runs races over the standard 26.2 mile marathon distance. Typical races, he states, ”are 50k, 40 mile, 50 mile, 100k and 100 mile.” When asked why he switched from standard road ultras to trail ultras, his answer was one of calm practicality: “I switched because it was easier on the joints and bones. I really hated running around cars and I love to be in the woods.” Trammel joined the TTT committee “in hopes of helping promote trail running and to bring an ultra-distance trail run to the area.”