Garett Graubins December 28, 2011 TWEET COMMENTS 0

Get Busy Living - Page 9

Photo by David Clifford

#9 Embrace the Minimalist Spirit

Doesn't every trail runner identify in some small way with the bohemian spirit of Chris McCandless, the main character in Jon Krakauer's opus, Into the Wild?

Any trail runner with a credit card can reserve a ski-resort chalet for a training or race weekend, perhaps receiving a massage while savoring views from a balcony. But the essence of trail running resides closer to the ground —for some, even on the ground. The sport was born from the Earth, and so it follows that we should return to basics every so often.

It should involve camping, cooking your pre-race breakfast on a camp stove and washing up under a sun shower. Many call it dirtbagging.

Channeling the spirit of McCandless, Tim Long, a Bay Area trail runner, doesn't look at it as "dirtbagging" so much as leading a "pioneer lifestyle." Says Long, "The point of it should be not how bad it can be -- like sleeping on the floor of an office at a stranger's house and having the owner come home and go into his office while you're lying under his desk, like I did last month at Moab—but the focus should be how good it can be, how, through skill and experience, how many creature comforts you can eke out of an otherwise Spartan setting."

Long could write a book about some of the simple pleasures he's savored while taking a minimalist approach to the sport (many are detailed on his blog, www.footfeathers.com). He has slept in the back of a truck and then had coffee fresh from the race director's personal coffee maker. One summer, he found an unlocked window in a clubhouse at a ski resort during the Tussey Mountainback national 50-mile championship. He went from having to sleep in the back of his rental car to sleeping on a sofa, with a television, fridge and bathroom all to himself.

"It's about being resourceful and opportunistic, bordering on the edge of societal norms without crashing over the line," he says.

So, while Trail Runner does not endorse trespassing, there is certainly virtue in focusing only on the trail race at hand—even if it means sharing the back of a truck with a smelly dog and two friends.


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