As the non-profit American Trail Running Association approaches a quarter century of service, we are interviewing trail runners from around the United States like Anastasia “Petal” Christman who are participating in our 25th Anniversary Challenge. Through these profiles we’ll introduce you to lesser known every day athletes who are walking, hiking, or trail running their way to distance milestones and sharing their experiences with the community on social media.
We hope these interviews will inspire you to get out on the trails while getting to know trail runners from different parts of the country. If you haven’t already joined our 25th Anniversary Challenge, you can learn more about it and sign-up on our website.
Let’s get to know Anastasia Christman
Hometown: Walla Walla, Washington
Challenge region: West
Years running trails: 20
Average miles per week on trails: 30
Favorite race distance: 30K
Longest trail race completed: 50K
[American Trail Running Association] How did you get into trail running?
[Anastasia Christman] I had a marvelous group of women running friends in Los Angeles back in 2000 or so, and we started running some trails to complement our road marathon training. We’d hustle up and down the hills of Griffith Park on weekday mornings before work, and every weekend one of us was responsible for finding a cool new trail to try and a brunch spot for post-run celebrations. (I suspect the other restaurant patrons weren’t as impressed with our successes as we were.) I was hooked!
[ATRA] What motivates you to get out and run on trails?
[Christman] It sounds funny since part of running is all about getting your heart rate up, but being out among trees and dirt and rocks somehow slows my instinct to rev up at the same time. I can focus wholly on the sound of my feet on the trail, or the birds singing in the trees, or the play of sun and shadow on the trail and I just leave all the other stuff behind for a while. I’ve come to realize that I am most fully and authentically myself during those moments that I am powering my own body along the trails.
[ATRA] What has your experience been running on trails versus running on roads?
[Christman] Road running has its place, for sure. In the “before times” I used to travel a lot for work and I loved just lacing up my shoes and exploring a new city at such a human pace. But, for me, it’s trail running that is really transformative. I am able to see how I fit into the larger scheme of things when I’m completely immersed in it: I’m breathing in the scent of warming pine needles, or I feel a breeze on my fact, or I see a tiny rabbit scurry under the cover of scrub at the side of the trail. Mountains give me a perspective on how I am both small and infinite at the same time. True, I am less likely to find a great little coffee shop than I am exploring new roads, but I’m pretty okay with that.
[ATRA] What do you like best about being part of the trail running community?
[Christman] At one of my first trail races the race director was talking into a bullhorn as we all stood shivering at the start line, and he said, “Today we all make the promise to each other that every single one of us gets down off this mountain.” He explained that while there would be a “winner” and awards, the real point of this run was to share the joy of the trail together and if we saw someone hurting or in trouble we needed to immediately shift our priority to helping that runner get to the next aid station. All during that race people cheered for one another, chatted happily at aid station buffets of flat soda and potato chips, and just grinned over and over saying, “This is amazing, isn’t it?” I feel that at every race: trail runners are more extended family than competitors.
[ATRA] What advice would you give to someone trying trail running for the first time?
[Christman] “Don’t trip on that tree root!” But, more seriously: learn to be attentive to the changes on the ground but don’t develop a tunnel vision about it. Take it all in. Even the same path will look dramatically different from one season to the next, so notice all the little details and revel in the way that you are a key part of the landscape. Also, welcome to a sport for which Oreo Cookies are a totally legit fueling strategy.
[ATRA] How did you first learn about our 25th Anniversary Challenge?
[Christman] ATRA’s email newsletter.
[ATRA] What do you enjoy most about our 25th Anniversary Challenge?
[Christman] The feeling that even though we can’t all be at the start lines together right now; we’re still having a sort of trail running family reunion.
[ATRA] Part of our 25th Anniversary Challenge is a weekly trail teaser. What trail teaser would you like to see during the challenge?
[Christman] Maybe pick a color and everyone has to look for it on the trail and share pictures of what we find?
[ATRA] How has how our 25th Anniversary Challenge has motivated you?
[Christman] Seeing photos and posts from runners all over the world reminds me that our great privilege is to be able to find at least a small patch of earth most anywhere we are where we can place our feet one after the other, over and over, until we are tired.
[ATRA] What is your favorite post-run or post-race indulgence?
[Christman] Cheeseburgers. Yes, that’s plural.
[ATRA] What is your favorite time of day to run trails?
[Christman] Sunrise. The world is so incredibly quiet and still.
Anastasia Christman’s pick one quiz results:
- Prefers Single Track over a Wide Path
- Prefers Uphill over Downhill running
- Planking over Push Ups
- She prefers Massage to foam rolling
- She will take a Long Run over Speed Work
If you enjoyed this interview with Anastasia Christman, there’s more! Our earlier challenge profiles include interviews with George Rehmet, Long Island’s Tim McNamara, San Antonio, Texas trail runner Kimberly Aubuchon, Sandra Galindo and Brooklyn’s Zobel Belisario.