Self-Medicated Trail Running
Of all the things that I get shouted at me while I’m trail running the most common is some variation of “I think you’re crazy”. Little do they know that when I’m running up a hill half naked with water bottles strapped to my chest, red locks flying about like a ginger medusa, this is as about as sane as I get.
Although I have never been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness, I have throughout my life suffered from various phases of corrosive mental malaise.
Eating disorders, hypochondria, anger and deep depression in my youth and anxiety and existential apathy as I grew older. The underlying causes of these states are another matter, but looking back they were always environmental rather than pathological (as I said I have never been diagnosed and I feel for people that require medication and rehabilitation).
In retrospect, I have always known the solution to my various intrusive states of mind. I distinctly remember, as a hazy headed teenager, hiking with my Father in the Onkaparinga Gorge Recreation park. I recall stopping for a moment, out of breath while climbing the rock stairs. Something struck me. It was clarity. My mind was not racing or full of static mud.
Maybe it was the fresh air, the natural dopamine, the quiet, being with my Dad or just simply being in the glory of nature. Whatever it was, it was as if a mental fog had been lifted. My mood and complete outlook had for a brief period corrected itself. All with just a strenuous hike in nature.
Extended natural movement through nature. It’s as simple as that. I won’t go into the mechanics or philosophy of this method of therapy, however from what I have seen and heard the science backs my subjective experiences up.
When I am quick to anger at my job or the people around me. When I am so gripped with anxiety that I find myself washing my hands again and again. This is when I breathe and think back the oceans of trees at Kuitpo Forrest or surveying the Southern coast, spotting dolphins from the beach on a three-hour long run.
Trail Running is so much more than a hobby or a way to stay fit. It is my medication, motivation and meditation.
The trails are not a way to run from my demons but a way to face them.