We’re certainly living a new normal since the pandemic, one in which we will forever be changed. Even if the pandemic is gone tomorrow, we’ve already modified how we think and react instinctively. Handshakes used to be a form of friendly greeting and now they’re frowned upon. Avoiding people was considered stand-offish and rude. Now it’s expected and appreciated. And trail running during this new normal has changed as well.

Run for the love of it

First off, I run because I love to run. I like to race, but I don’t need a race. Races have always been a place to gather and bond with friends, and I certainly miss that, but at this time, I’m pulled back within myself to run solo. There are races that are adapting, with rolling starts and no aid stations, arriving by yourself, running the race with a timing chip, then leaving by yourself, with minimal overlap of people passing or crossing other people. I’ve seen it work with a few races. It’s not the same, but how could it be.

I run a variety of trail systems near my home in Austin and I used to run them a couple of times a week, every week… but now the trails are full of more people than I’ve ever seen out there. Most of them are not trail runners, but people are just trying to find some peace, but they have no concept of following the COVID rules of distance. I’ve had to turn around and find a different way time and again. I’m not being rude. I’m being safe. I’ve found other places to run lately, places I’d never been before, where most people don’t know and few people run. They’re not as nice or as long as I’d like, but they fill a need.

Joe Prusaitis Bandera

Author Joe Prusaitis at Bandera 100k in 2020

Get to know your neighborhood better

I’ve run the roads in my neighborhood for years, but it was just a quick fix, because I preferred trails. But the roads are now full of people on foot, bike, rollerblades, and pushing strollers. At first I was put off by these crowds too, but the roads are wide, and here at least I can avoid the others while I run.

Still, I’m at heart a trail runner, so I’ve found ways to connect all the neighborhood green areas with the roads and have created a series of routes that mix the two systems for hybrid runs combining both, so that I can change a route when I need to when there is a need.

More than anything else, I now know my neighborhood and the trail systems where I live better than I ever have before, by taking every trail and road to its end. I’ve found trails I never knew existed, trails and sidewalks between homes at the ends of cul-de-sacs that are not listed on any map.

Everything I run is tracked on Strava and each is posted every day, so others are checking my routes and learning from what I’ve learned… where the biggest hills are, the most elevation in the shortest loop, 10, 20, and 30 mile loops… from my home.

The time of day I run depends on so many other things, so I run morning, mid-day, or evening. The weather’s been hot, so if my run happens mid-day, it might be a walk. Sometimes I go with my wife, kids, or grandkids, and then it’s certainly a walk, but it doesn’t really matter if I walk or run. I learned a long time ago how important good walking skills help my running and I love this time with my family.

It’s living and learning and trying to coexist as best we can. I’ve logged four consecutive 200 mile months during the pandemic… solo mostly, so there’s no reason to stop running. Actually most of us have more time to run. We just need to adapt… and wear a mask.

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Joe Prusaitis

Joe Prusaitis is the founder of Tejas Trails and a Running Coach for Austin Trail Roots For more on Joe you can check out his latest book: The Art of Trail Race Directing