Trail Running Illustrated: The Art of Running Free, written by Doug Mayer and Brian Metzler, Mountaineers Books, 2021. Illustrated by Schreiber Marion. Reviewed by trail runner Laura Clark. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian.
You’re off to Great Places,
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So…get on your way!
– Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
This quote from children’s author Dr. Seuss fittingly introduces the first chapter of Trail Running Illustrated, the latest take on the art of trail running which offers surprises at every summit. Imagined by Doug Mayer, correspondent, trail guide and expert on all things Alps and Brian Metzler, journalist and author, Trail Running Illustrated is published in the States by Mountaineers Books, the source for all things outdoors.
As a children’s librarian, whenever I am searching for factual information, I find myself gravitating towards juvenile non-fiction, with its perfect mix of illustrative pictures and carefully culled facts. Just enough information, but nothing superfluous. Both Metzler and Mayer have grasped this concept and have given us a work that breaks new ground. Full page graphic novel-style colors, predominately reds, yellows, blacks and whites pop from every page, defining the carefully chosen words and highlighting strategic facts. While this book may become your favorite bedtime read, you can count on it not putting you to sleep! Runners, gorillas, moose and story icons cavort throughout this lively presentation and guarantee to keep you fully engaged, even when your kit consists of comfy jammies and fluffy slipper socks.
The authors joyfully guide you through one of humanity’s oldest forms of play, with special consideration shown towards beginning trail runners. Beyond that, though, this book is a reminder to old hands not to get so caught up in race times or training schedules that we forget the fun that originally drew us to the trails. Whether examining technique, necessary gear or nutrition, the runner is reminded not to go overboard but to experiment with what works best for her individual lifestyle. In essence, this work truly is The Art of Running Free as the subtitle suggests…being free to explore your own agenda in an informed manner.
Extensive legroom is devoted to the art of handling spatial disorientation, which causes the inexperienced to stick to the sides of the road and veterans to decorate the trails with stick arrows. Absorb this section and the adventure becomes less intimidating. For it is one thing to run a race on a clearly marked course, providing you remain alert and don’t rely on the person ahead of you to make the correct decisions, but it is another to venture onto a new-to-you trail without having done some homework. While GPS and smart phone apps are great tools, the authors urge runners to carry (and know how to read) a paper map as well, especially when snow or leaf cover disguise a barely discernible trail. And if the worst happens, they offer suggestions on how to become “unlost.” This is often a significant problem for newbies who have no idea how to read the lay of the land without a street map and a nearby gas station.
Additionally, there are special sections covering women’s running, environmentally-friendly safeguards, adventuring with your dog, tackling snowfields or river crossings, ultrarunning, and even trekking with your neighborhood burro. There is always something new to look forward to and somewhere new to explore with this handy guide…Happy Trails!