Have you ever cancelled plans for a music festival because you’d prefer to journal beside a rock? Or maybe you’ve recently made the transition from big city road marathons to start lines in the middle of a deserted forest? Chances are, you’re not only a true trail runner, you’re also an introvert.
Introverts and extroverts
Introversion and extroversion are on a spectrum. Introverts are often highly sensitive people who feel exhausted by spending time in large groups. Their brains respond to dopamine in different ways than those of extroverts. Extroverts acquire energy by spending time with lots of people. Introverts get their energy and excitement from serenity.
Introverts on the trails
There is no doubt that running trails and ultras is physically exhausting. But for an introvert, it can be recharging and rewarding. For many introverts, trail running offers an opportunity to turn off, or turn on the parts of their brain that give them clarity or help them feel better.
Spend time at a trail race, and you may feel as though you are at a gathering for the Introverts Anonymous Club. At many local trail events, introverts come together after training for months–mostly on their own. Not to be confused with shyness, the introverted trail runners will engage with others. Avoiding small talk, they will likely over-share something about their life or their training before toeing the line. When the gun goes off, they are free from social interaction and liberated to push hard on the trails. At the finish line, you can find them high fiving everyone before retreating back into solitude.
The trail running disposition
Introversion is a temperament you were likely born with. Studies show that whether actively engaged in a task or not, introverts have high levels of electrical activity in their brains. For an introvert, shutting off their brain is a challenge. In trail running, our brains must be engaged so we don’t trip and fall. In ultrarunning, we are constantly conserving energy, just like introverts.
The introvert party
As introverts, trail runners feel a connection to other outdoor enthusiasts. Our version of a wild party is a trail race with more than 100 participants. Even though we tend to overthink everything, at least we are overthinking in solidarity. Trail running is our opportunity to get out of our own head. We can focus on the external world without feeling drained by stimulating social interactions. We do our best work alone–in our careers and on the trails. We are rewarded by our efforts intrinsically, so a fancy finisher’s medal has little meaning. We seek meaning in our lives, and this meaning can come from training in the trails.
Trail running can be an opportunity for trail runners to unite (but not for too long, and for limited periods of time). Whether you’re an introvert, a trail runner, or both–be aware of the energy you are expending. Your training depends on it.