Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dirt & Mud Abuse…Signs of Trailrunning Abuse

Dirt (or mud) is the most commonly abused surface by trailrunners and perhaps not coincidentally, it is also the most socially acceptable to use (by trailrunners). Most trailrunners use dirt trails with little difficulty, although a significant minority (10-20%) of trailrunners experience fairly serious problems managing their use. And most trailrunners who run experience at least some difficulty with overuse at some point in their lives. Before going further it may help to clarify some possible misconceptions about dirt/mud trail use and overuse.

Dirt singletrack trail use, like most human behaviors, exists on a continuum from no use to extremely heavy usage (daily consumption of high mileages of trails with addiction present). The potential negative consequences of trail use also exist on a continuum that, perhaps not surprisingly, fits quite well with the amount of use continuum. Incidentally, if the picture toward the right side of the continuum looks kind of bleak and muddy, that's because it is!

Singletrack Trail Use-Negative Consequences of Use Continuum

0 = No Use
1 = Some casual running or hiking
2 = Regular Use
3 = Frequent heavy Use
4 = Addiction

No Use
• No trailrunning related occasional picnic in the woods.

Some casual running/hiking and social trailrunning
• Occasional post-run tiredness and muddy shoes
• Embarrassing behavior (like going into restaurants covered in mud)

Regular use of trails
• More frequent post-run tiredness and muddy legs
• Agressive feelings toward pavement and the "idiots" who run on pavement
• Possible Fights with Equine folks
• More arguments with pavement-pounders and downright disdain for pavement and sidewalks
• Danger of addiction

Frequent and/or heavy use of trails
• 5 or more trail runs per week
• muddy legs and shoes that you forget what color they originally were
• Possible "trail psychosis"... and feeling the need to chase-down a deer
• Need more trailrunning to "feel it" (establishing a higher tolerance)
• Conflicts with others (that aren't covered in mud)
• Possibilities of blackouts - you find yourself wandering aimlessly on the Psycho Wyco course with no memory of how you got there.
• Likelihood of addiction
• Denial begins to develop

• Trailrunning is part of daily functioning
• Your shoulders are raw from bouncing off of trees
• You’re turned-on by members of the opposite sex only if they’re covered in mud and their legs are scratched and bleeding.
• You’ve named all of the large rocks on your regular runs
• You can’t take a crap, unless you’re in the woods

Photo by Dick Ross

As trail use increases toward the frequent heavy use range of the continuum, problems managing one's life become unavoidable—trails and being covered in mud becomes more important than our responsibilities, our activities, our friends (unless they're "trailrunning buddies"), and our families. Problems toward the left side of the continuum are much less frequent and much more manageable. By the way, frequent heavy use is defined as five or more trail runs per week; addiction may occur with very heavy use (8-10 or more, trail runs per week), only once or twice per week with heavy mileage (the binge trailrunner). If you fear that you are creeping too far to the right on the continuum, or one of your friends is, seek help or talk to your friend about what you see happening. Consulting with a counselor (or personal trainer) in either case is a real good idea; some valuable information and support become available once you take that step. And if you vehemently deny, or your friend denies, that trail abuse is a problem, that often indicates that it is a problem. To get one's life back under control requires using trails less (or not at all); if you can't do it on your own, seek help. If not, just join the Trail Nerds for one of our ten weekly group training runs. Yeah...we may be a bunch of "Trail Junkies," but we are a fun group.


Jules said...

I need to become an addict!

Travis said...

thanks Ben, this really made me take a long, hard look at myself and realize that I teetering between Regular and Frequent. I actually have an aggressive feeling towards myself when I run on pavement, which is quite a conundrum since I like me. Sometimes my schedule just doesn't allow me to drive out to the dirt paths. Maybe I will get a bucket full of dirt by the door and have my wife throw some at me right before I leaved for a pavement run, perhaps that will mask my anger towards me.

Debbie said...

Very well said Ben. I love the trails there is nothing like it. For me it's like being a kid again.

Strawberry Hill Runner said...

Well it looks like I fall in the "regular use" column... I guess I'm a big slacker and I promise to try harder to end up in the "addiction" section.

Jim said...

Hello...I'm a Trail Nerd...and I have been binge running lately due to work travel getting in the I started building trails in the green space behind my more excuses

olga said...

Nice looking mud there! Must have been a joy to splash around:)

Blyfinn said...

I have tagged you in my blog. Check it out--and please don't blame me about it. :-)

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