In 2017, Outside Magazine posted an article with a headline that made me cringe; "Why Do Rich People Love Endurance Sports?" The article delves into the straightforward world of financing an endurance sport, such as racing triathlons or completing a marathon. But it also dives into the sociology and psychology of white collar workers choosing the pain, suffering, and long-term discomfort of an endurance sport as their after-hours hobby.
Looking around at our own Tulsa trail running community, you can see the pattern exists here, too. Our members include business owners, software developers, and mechanical engineers. So why do highly educated and well-paid office workers want to spend their free time getting lost in the woods?
Outside's article claims it has to do with clearly defined goals, stating, : "the chance to pursue a clear and measurable goal with a direct line back to the work they have put in." And maybe that's the case for most endurance sports, such as marathons and long-distance cycling. There's a start line, a clearly marked course, mile markers and obvious aid stations, and a finish line. Expectations are clear in road races and major, sponsored events.
But what is the draw, specifically, towards trail running? Trail running, sure, may have a clear start line, but that tends to be the first and last clearly-defined moment of a trail race. Course markers are often confusing, courses altered by the weather and wildlife, and your next step is always guaranteed to be different than your last. There is no, "methodical process and simplicity", as one white collar endurance athlete used to describe her draw to road races, in trail running. Your aid stations will likely be understaffed, and are more likely to have Fireball and beer than that banana and peanut butter combo you so desperately wanted.
As a more "grey" collar myself, I can't really claim to know the answer to this one; I don't feel I'm a representative of the white collar clan. I can only say that, for myself, I love the uncertainty and the definitive consequences of trail running. Our professional world has so much specialization and so many rigid boundaries in place; how many of us know how to fix our computer, but "have" to send it to IT first? How many times have we seen an issue at work, but been told that's, "not for our department to handle,"?
Trail running requires the exact opposite. You have to be at least decent in several varied disciplines to trail run- balance, cardio, outdoor navigation, nutrition, basic first aid, and even local flora and fauna knowledge. Trail running makes you responsible for everything that it takes to finish the race, and there is no one else who you can "send" your problem to, to make it go away. It's a kind of liberating burden, to be the only one who can fix the issues you face alone on the trail.
White collar workers who find value in playing in the dirt- why do you trail run?