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This is the first installment in our Running Starts column, a series focused on tips, techniques and discussions for runners getting started on the trails.  Do you have a question about getting started trail running? Whether it’s about safety, navigation, strength or just building confidence, email  Kriste at kristepeoples@gmail.com

I’ve always been quite taken with nature. It’s the one place I can go that feels neutral. Nature doesn’t judge me, or anyone, good, bad, or otherwise. When I’m hoofing up mountains into thin air, there’s never any doubt about who’s going to win: Nature will always have the upper hand. When I’m on trails, I’m humbled, awed and invigorated at the same time. 

I grew up running—on track teams and in run clubs on the East coast. As a kid in Virginia, I lived at sea level, near beaches, where dunes were the closest I got to anything resembling elevation. Later, living in Brooklyn meant navigating concrete parks and bridges, still running over and around big bodies of water. Even during a stint in Chicago, I ran on flat expanses, also by the water. Through it all, I considered myself ‘active,’ because I was. I’d run a handful of full- and half-marathons and signed on to a few multi-day team relays in the Pacific Northwest and California. But, once I moved to Colorado, that’s when I learned ‘active’ was just a word. 

For the first six months, it seemed I couldn’t make it up the stairs without collapsing on my couch and fearing the worst. I’d heard about the effects of altitude on the body, but surely it didn’t feel this bad, I thought. But it did. Add to that, the anguish of seeing so many elite athletes zipping along on roads and trails, it mystified me. How were they able to leap and bound when all I could do at the time was shuffle and wheeze? I gave myself a few more wound-licking weeks and eventually found a coach to help me re-learn how to run. At the time, she never called what we did ‘trail running’ even though that’s exactly what it was. We became friends over the two years we worked together, and I believe it’s what set me on the path to where I am today.

I’m not here because I’m an elite athlete or a professional runner. I’m not a celebrated pro or gear junkie either. I’m not especially competitive or overly obsessed with shaving my time or weight. Why I am here, however, is because I love to help runners expand their idea of adventure, ability, and I daresay, fun. 

Another thing you should know: for as much as I love trail running, I was just as intimidated when I started. Thanks to some people who helped me learn to love running trails, I now know now it didn’t have to be such an overwhelming experience when I started. I remember the nervousness at those early trail clinics where I felt too intimidated to ask questions that seemingly everyone else had the answers to. It always turned out fine, but when I think of all the literal and figurative hills I’ve climbed just to feel a sense of welcome, like I belong in the space, well. 

I’m here to share my stories from the trail, as well as training tips and resources. If you’re brand new to trail running, or you’re elite, well-seasoned, and simply interested in joining me on my journey, then welcome. My goal is to help demystify the process of trail running, to expand the narrative of adventure and visibility, to extol the joys of it, and to be real about its challenges. I’ll be offering up my thoughts every other week, and I’m excited about that. Because we’ve got a lot of good miles ahead of us together. In the meantime, I invite you to set foot – safely and socially-distanced – on a new trail soon. 

Kriste Peoples is a self-described outdoorist,  sunshine enthusiast and a Denver-based women’s trail running coach with Lifes 2 Short Fitness.  More than just running, she uses activity to connect with her community and her environment while inspiring more women to take up space and run. 

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