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Finding Joy on the Trails: Adam Lee’s Trail Running Journey

Finding Joy on the Trails Adam Lee How It All Started Run Tri Bike
Adam Lee
Year started: 2012
Next race: June 21st, 2024 / Grouse Grind Longest Day Challenge / Vancouver, BC
Favorite gear:
  • Buff Head and Neck Gaiters

Getting started on an endurance sports journey is taking a risk and walking into the unknown. What transpires over time is a transformative experience that tests one’s resilience and determination. When we are training, we can often find ourselves waking up at 4:00 a.m. to push our limits. In those moments, when we are facing a challenge we may question our choices. Yet, we continue to participate because, despite the difficulties, there’s something about the sport that keeps us hooked. Adam Lee, a trail runner, podcaster and host for the Trail Running Film Festival (in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Canmore, and Crowsnest Pass, shares his story of how he got started in endurance sports and why he continues to find joy on the trails.

The Road to Trail Running

In 2012, Adam moved from Victoria to Vancouver and found himself signing up for the local BMO half marathon, initially attracted by the idea of meeting new people. Little did he know that this decision would be the catalyst for a profound love for running. He became addicted to chasing times and participating in organized events every month, but it wasn’t until 2015 that he discovered the trails.

Adam recalls signing up for a local mountain eight-kilometer trail race. He mentioned, “It was marketed as Canada’s toughest 8k because how many 8ks are there.  When I got there the atmosphere and everything hooked me immediately.”  He instantly fell in love with the experience. Having grown up mountain biking in Ontario, the trails felt like a natural fit. The atmosphere, camaraderie, and scenic beauty of trail running captivated him. He realized that trail running wasn’t just a physical challenge but a holistic experience that allowed him to connect with nature and a supportive community.

A Life-Changing Race: Squamish 50 50

In 2021, Adam took on the Squamish 50 50 – a challenging 50-mile race followed by a 50K the next day. The race, originally scheduled for July, was unexpectedly moved to October. This change to later in the year would bring heavy rain and challenging conditions. Despite the adverse weather, the race became a pivotal moment for Adam. He described it “the race changed my life in the most positive way imaginable.” He continued by emphasizing the privilege of pushing oneself and the positive impact of enduring through difficult circumstances.

As anybody who races a long ultra knows that it is never done alone or without setbacks. During the conversation, Adam was sure to point out the support of his wife during the race. Despite the atmospheric river she was there for every step of the way. His wife would crew him and then find away, via cab, to the next aid station to do it again. He acknowledged how important she was to his success that weekend. Having her support allowed him to race as well as have lasting memories.

Reflecting on the race, Adam acknowledges the immense privilege inherent in choosing to participate in such challenging events. Adam said, “To be able to push ourselves and have the luxury of doing that in life, I can really appreciate it all.” He recognizes his ability to pushing physical and mental boundaries and values the lessons learned from the Squamish race. That race is where the focus shifted from time and competition to sheer perseverance and appreciating the journey. Trail running would never be the same for Adam.


Trail Running: More Than Just a Race

As Adam became more involved in trail running, he found joy in the diverse terrains, relishing the mental clarity that running downhill brought. These moments were special for Adam. He mentioned that trail running, unlike road races, offered him a more social and enjoyable experience without the constant obsession with pace and competition. The variability in terrain, with steep climbs and technical descents, added an element of unpredictability that kept the sport fresh and exciting.

One of the key attractions for Adam was the trail running community’s emphasis on fun and celebration. He contrasts the “business” of road running with the “party” atmosphere of trail running, highlighting the socializing, joking, and supportive interactions that make the trail running community unique.

Lessons from the Trails Applied to Life

Adam emphasizes that the trail running mindset, particularly in facing changing terrains, mirrors life itself. Just as the trail presents varying challenges, life throws curveballs that demand adaptation and perseverance. The fundamental lesson he took from trail running is the importance of doing the work, staying committed to the goal, and understanding that not every run or race will be perfect.

This philosophy extends beyond running for Adam. As an event coordinator for the Trail Running Film Festival, he applies the same principles. Doing the work, having a clear goal, and embracing the journey will lead to success on ‘race’ day. The festival is more than just a film screening; it’s a celebration finding joy on the trails and within the running community. The film festival helps in fostering connections, raising funds for local causes, and providing a platform for trail runners to come together.

Attracting Others to the Trail

Trail running has become a passion for Adam, and he actively contributes to growing the trail running community. When asked about attracting road runners to the trails, he emphasizes the sense of community and the joy of being in nature. While he admits difficulty in envisioning a marketing campaign to showcase the lightheartedness of trail running, he believes highlighting the community spirit and the fun of being in the wild might be the key.

Advice for Beginners: Embrace the Journey

For those considering venturing into trail running, Adam’s advice is simple. He nonchalantly provided the following advice, “I would say press register and do it because you’ll have a great time.” He encourages beginners to find local trail groups for guidance, support, and the opportunity to explore trails safely. During the conversation he acknowledges the fact that not every run is perfect. He emphasized the importance of enjoying the process and being open to the unique experiences trail running offers.

Adam Lee’s journey from road running to trail running is not unique but it is another example of seeking adventure and fun. Finding joy on the trails along with community and life lessons he invites others to embark on their own trail running adventures. As Adam continues to patiently await the perfect 100-mile race that speaks to him, his trail running journey remains an inspiring example of the consistent pursuit of goals and the enduring love for the sport.