On the Trail

I’ve always loved being outdoors, particularly in the woods. My family was never really into outdoor stuff but growing up in Oregon it is nearly impossible not to have some sort of affinity for nature. I remember as a young teenager exploring the random forests, woods, and streams that surrounded my home and the homes of my friends. We hiked up and down hills, talked about life, and hoped to catch a glimpse of naked girls in a river or stream… for some reason, I believed that girls just randomly hung out and skinny-dipped in streams that were just a few yards from roads and residential neighborhoods. I never found any naked girls, except the ones in the porn mags that always seemed to be hidden throughout the woods.

Since moving to Wilmington it has been difficult to explore nature in a way that feels natural to me. Luckily, I think I found a way: trail running. I’ve been running a lot lately but I find it so fucking boring sometimes. Just running around on concrete or a track feels so dull to me, I’m just not entertained or motivated or challenged by a flat run through a city or on UNCW’s track.

Trail running, though, is very different. It is a return to nature that demands constant vigilance. If you stop paying attention to the present for even a second you may trip on a root or crash into a tree. It is a very Stoic meditative exercise, your mind can’t wander too much or you will pay the consequences. And why would you want your mind to wander? All around is beautiful nature and fresh air. It is marvelous.

Last weekend I participated in a 9-mile run at Brunswick Nature Park and had a blast. I wasn’t trying to race or anything but I kept a really good 9ish-mile pace for the entire thing. I wasn’t even thinking about my time, I was just enjoying the moment. I felt actual joy while running, I felt goofy and had fun. I’d jump down hills and spread my arms like wings and bound off rocks. It was a childish joy that I rarely feel anymore, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Yes, my body was a little sore afterward and I was tired. The little muscles around my ankles and feet were particularly tender because they aren’t used to being used to stabilize on rocky terrain. That doesn’t matter though, my body will heal stronger and I’ll get out there again. My next group run isn’t until May but I’m trying to find ways to implement trail running into my routine. The college has a lot of woods and trails to explore, and I picked up some hiking boots to go rucking in. Rucking is definitely a different game than trail running, but I think it’ll be equally enjoyable and therapeutic. (I also have an overnight rucking event next month that I’m nervous/excited for… so I gotta break in my equipment).

One of the things I’ve really been missing here in Wilmington is a group of people to do physical activity with. I’ve got some great D&D friends and drinking friends, but I don’t have a lot of people to get outside with. Maybe trail running and rucking can help fill that hole.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
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Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”