For the Love of Trail Running . . .

August 7, 2012 9:01 am 0 comments

Reaching the summit!

Many people think of Port Alberni as a jaded logging town, lost somewhere in the wilds of Vancouver Island. A million tourists drive through here every year, on their way to the trendier west coast resort towns of Tofino and Ucluelet. However, the few who make the time to stop here and explore soon find out that Port Alberni is one of Canada’s best-kept trail-running secrets.

I used to be one of those travelers who snub their noses at Port Alberni. Back then, I had no idea what this place had to offer to runners. A century and a half of forestry means that there is an extensive network of logging roads lacing their way through the mountainous landscape. Although much of the original old-growth rainforest has been cut, the new-growth forest is lush and mature: cedar and hemlock and spruce trees festooned with moss and lichens, all underlain by a carpet of ferns and berry bushes.

Running on logging roads is better than running on pavement – but it is still not real “trail running.” Fortunately, this town has very active communities of mountain bikers, dirt bikers, and hikers – and they all work at developing and maintaining trail systems. For a trail runner, the logging roads provide access routes to trailheads, or valuable links between trails when on a long run – but they are not the running destination itself.

Several years ago, I started to make a point of stopping in Port Alberni for a trail run each time I drove through. The first trail that I  discovered was the Log Train Trail, a 20-mile route that follows an old railway bed from Alberni’s logging days. It skirts along the hillsides, an unusually flat route for this mountainous town. Off the sides of the main trail, mountain bikers have cut paths uphill and downhill through the forest. As I got to know the area, I found I could choose which type of trail run I wanted to do: go for distance and speed on the flat Log Train Trail itself, or push my technical skills on the steep side-trails.

Then I discovered the Fisherman’s Trail in Stamp Darfor ar det valdigt praktiskt och enkelt for en person utanfor dessa staderna att logga in pa sitt spelkonto genom sin dator och borja spela casino online . Falls Provincial Park. This quickly became my favorite running trail: a hard-packed dirt path that twists and winds along the river bank. In spring, it is littered with wildflowers. In autumn, black bears fish for salmon in the river, and maple leaves dangle, golden, in front of the dark spruce fringe.

The more I explored, the more I met up with other runners, gradually becoming part of Port Alberni’s running community. As both my social life and my sporting life migrated to this town, I eventually realized that I should just move here.

One of the trail runners I met became my running partner, and then my life partner. Dave was born and raised here, and he’s been running and biking these trails for thirty years. The network of trails I had discovered on my own pales compared to the trails that Dave has shown me: steep, technical routes that go straight up the mountainsides; scenic trails along the Alberni Inlet (a 40-mile long saltwater fiord); and overgrown paths, nearly hidden, that lead to abandoned cabins and mine workings. Dave and I have run hundreds of miles of trail together around here, and we know we have many hundreds more left to explore.

I have been a runner, on and off, nearly all of my life. For most of that time, I ran because I felt I should: it is good for me, it keeps the weight off, it keeps me strong.

But something funny has happened these last few years. I no longer run because I “should.” I run for the pure joy of it. I love the feel of the trail beneath my feet: the constant twisting and flexing of my ankles, rather than the repetitive strain of pounding pavement. I love the mental focus, the attention to foot placement over rocks and roots, rather than the monotony and zoning out on a flat straight road. I love the adventure and exploration: rounding a corner to discover an unexpected vista, or a rare wildflower, or a deer and her fawn.

Although I have entered some races, I have never been focused on training for races. Now, I am even less so. These days, most of my runs are around here, with Dave and his two dogs. We run for fun. We stop to take pictures. We walk sometimes.

Port Alberni’s trails have changed me as a runner. I hope that you can find your special place too, trails that you come to know and love – trails that will keep you running for the joy of it, and not because you “should.”

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jacqueline Windh

Jacqueline Windh

Jacqueline Windh runs around Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island, Canada, with her partner Dave and their two dogs. Although she mostly runs purely for the joy of running, she does enter the occasional off-road ultra (her favorites are multi-day races: the tougher the terrain, the better). Her articles have been published in magazines around the world, and she is author of four books.

Related posts:

Leave a Reply

2 + eight =

Other News

  • Equipment Trails Salomon’s “Door to Trail” running shoe: The XR Mission CS

    Salomon’s “Door to Trail” running shoe: The XR Mission CS

    I admit it, I am already a fan (and regular user) of Salomon shoes. I was excited when they launched their Speedcross line, with the deep-lugged treads (that I liken to snow tires) that I had desired in trail runners for years. Now, Salomon have come out with a completely different line of running shoes, their “Door to Trail” series. These shoes are basically hybrid trail/road runners, incorporating the cushioning of a road shoe with the protection and grip of [...]

    Read more →
  • Beginners Tips Training Rest Days:  Pushing Yourself Beyond Your Comfort Zone

    Rest Days: Pushing Yourself Beyond Your Comfort Zone

    It is my hope that you have been diligently practicing your running routine a few days out of the week.  I expect that you have used the tools I have provided to help combat motivational lapses including but not limited to: sleeping with a cup of coffee and a banana next to your bed, wearing appropriate gear for all weather situations, and making sure that any momentary drops in your daily drive to run are not too harshly punished (and [...]

    Read more →
  • Fitness Health Injuries Is Running Bad for Your Knees?

    Is Running Bad for Your Knees?

    Do you avoid running because it’s bad for your knees and joints? Some people believe if they run to stay fit they’ll end up with joint problems and osteoarthritis. Is there any truth to this idea? Running and Joints: Does Running Increase the Risk of Joint Problems? There’s very little evidence that running increases the risk of joint problems or osteoarthritis later in life. In a study published in JAMA in 1986, researchers found no increased risk of clinical osteoarthritis [...]

    Read more →
  • Destinations Race Report Trails Race Report: Shawnigan-Kinsol Half Marathon

    Race Report: Shawnigan-Kinsol Half Marathon

    I’m just in from running the Shawnigan-Kinsol Half Marathon – and this is not just any old half marathon. This is the 37th consecutive year it has been run, making it British Columbia’s longest running half marathon race. The course itself is unique – both because it is half on road and half along trails, and also because it passes over the historic Kinsol Trestle (more about this magnificent railway bridge below). And, its location in the tiny town of [...]

    Read more →
  • Barefoot Barefoot Races Across The Nation

    Barefoot Races Across The Nation

    If you’re one of the many runners who have discovered the joy of barefoot running, one of the best ways to share the experience is by taking part in a barefoot running race. In some areas of the country, particularly on the west coast, minimalist running shoes or going completely sans shoes is becoming common place, but in a few regions of the U.S. naked foot runners still get quite a few strange looks. Joining a race is a wonderful [...]

    Read more →
  • Health Trails Foot Care for Trail Runners

    Foot Care for Trail Runners

    The most important part of any runner’s body is our feet. If our feet are not in good condition, we may not be able to run at all. While trail running is easier on the joints than road running, running on trails can present some specific hazards. Here are some foot care tips, so your feet will be up to encountering whatever the trails may bring. Foot Care at Home Whether you are a road runner or a trail runner, [...]

    Read more →
  • Health What to Drink When Running:  A Quick Primer

    What to Drink When Running: A Quick Primer

    If you’re a runner, you understand the importance of good hydration, particularly if you run outdoors in warm weather. Warm temperatures combined with high humidity can cause rapid overheating unless you regularly replace fluids lost through sweating. When it comes to drink options for re-hydration, the modern runner has a bewildering array of choices ranging from sports drinks to high powered energy drinks. How do you choose among  the many options? What are the best drinks for runners? The type [...]

    Read more →
  • Beginners Training Eating is NOT a Form of Cross Training

    Eating is NOT a Form of Cross Training

    You’ve been training for a few months, and despite all the motivating words of wisdom you’ve been voraciously reading on, the excitement that comes with beginning a new discipline and becoming a runner has lost its initial glow. You find yourself hitting the snooze button more frequently (multiple times in a row), and find yourself looking for excuses as to why you should take yet another day off from running.  Maybe you’ve had some rough days at work and [...]

    Read more →