I always knew I was going to be a trail runner, which is odd as I didn’t know any runners. I knew nothing about running and no one in my family was athletic but I’d see these trails out in the distance weaving through the oak trees of the central valley. Each time my mother and I drove the 101 between Los Angeles and Paso Robles when I was 8 or 9, I’d think, “some day, I’m going to run those trails.”
A Thanksgiving Transformation
Fast forward to November 25, 1993. It’s Thanksgiving and I’m one year sober from a decade-long heroin addiction. I’ve just left L.A. and I’m now living in Belmont, CA and I’m completely out of my element. I’m 25 years old, I don’t have a job, I have no friends, and I haven’t a clue what to do with my life. My father is letting me and my dog stay with him so that’s something. On a whim, he suggests I take my dog to the trails down the street while he and his girlfriend prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Since I’m feeling awkward in my new living situation, I quickly agreed and made my way to Waterdog Lake & Open Space. I would spend the next 16 years running those trails and others throughout the SF Bay Peninsula.
From Hiking to Trail Running
I won’t bore with you how hiking turned into trail running but I recall it happening quickly. I don’t remember where I bought the shoes I ran in (Nike) or any other running gear. My mileage was low initially but within a year I was averaging 6-7 miles a day. For many years I ran with my dog and a folding buck knife in my right hand for safety. This was in the early morning hours before work (I’d found a job at a videogame company). I knew so little about running gear and I didn’t know any other runners. I was aware of a few mountain bikers I’d see occasionally while I was out.
My First Road Race: Bay to Breakers
My first race was the Bay to Breakers (1994) in San Francisco, which was the first time I’d ever run on a road. The first time at a trail race was Race through the Redwoods (1996) in Felton, CA and I was so blown away by the redwoods and trails that I vowed I would someday live there (I moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains in 2009). My first marathon was the LA Marathon (1999).
Part II – Run Those Trails
My running experience evolved from those early days of uncertainty to become a defining part of my life. This is just the beginning of my trail running story. In two weeks, I’ll be sharing Part II. I’ll delve into the highs, the lows, and the transformative moments that have shaped my journey as a trail runner. Until then, keep those running shoes laced up and your spirits high because the adventure continues.