Aug | 26

Running with Knives: My First Time Trail Running

8:00 a.m.
Cascade Mountains.
50 minutes outside Seattle.
Starbucks in my belly. No shame.

I’ve sold my car and have been riding to and from work — 13 hilly miles round-trip, (i.e. Hell, for a Midwestern transplant such as myself), with zero freshness in my legs to squeeze in any running miles during the week.

So. Here I am.

The three of us — my husband, our roommate, and myself — have escaped the city to go fly fishing. But I need to get in a run. I have to. I… *wipes nose furiously* …I take action! Grabbing my sneaks right before we head out the door.

We’re parked as far as we’re able to drive and have hiked a couple hundred yards to the fishing hole. And just beyond that fishing hole, upriver, there is a trail.

I will explore this trail by fleeting foot, I think, my inner dialogue both majestic and fueled by caffeine. I imagine myself — nay — envision myself, sweat beaded on my brow… legs pumping, leaping gracefully over babbling brooks, passing glorious mountainous landscapes.

I am trail-running in the Pacific Northwest wilderness!

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Just as I plug in my earbuds and turn for the trail, my husband suggests I take a knife.

A knife.

He’s so cute, I think. So worried about his wife’s safety. And I congratulate myself on my fine man-catch and tell him I’ll be fine.But as soon as I turn on the heels of my Brooks Adrenalines, I start to imagine — no— hallucinate myself stumbling upon the path of a mountain lion.

Or is it a grizzly bear?

I’m pretty sure she has cubs.

And then the headlines:

“Midwest Transplant Mauled by Mountain Beast”
“Inexperienced Trail Runner Meets Her Doom”

Mom and Dad are crying.
My husband is devastated.
He eventually remarries.

“Okay, I guess I’ll take it,” I shrug.

Our roommate hands me his knife; a bulky, Army green contraption with a skull print on the blade. I get a brief lesson on how to open and close it without slicing my hand. Okay. I got this, I think as I take off down the trail. We are so deep in the wilderness that I have absolutely no prayer for a cell signal, but thankfully my GPS works.

Related: The Ten Trail Running Essentials


If I get lost or attacked (in which case I’ll  defend myself like a brave warrior, of course), I won’t be able to call for help. But I will have Map My Run to retrace my path… and to record, post and share this heroic and life-altering run.

The trail is rocky and a bit uneven, but unlike my daily bike commutes, the climb isn’t too steep.
This is a good thing, as I’ve started using my precious wind to yell “whoop!” every 30 yards or so.

You know. To warn mountain lions of my approach.

The beads of brow sweat start to form as I dodge rocky terrain and spider webs, a couple of which I have to stop dead in my tracks to swipe, lest I return with nightmares of spiders nesting in my hair. I inevitably run through a few strands and do my best to wipe the silk from my face and torso.

I am so far in the Pacific Northwest wilderness that Map My Run is returning feedback in kilometers.

I continue to floss my teeth with silky threads until it dawns on me: I don’t have to stop my run to swipe nor get plastered by webs if I don’t stop.

I grab a stick.

And I continue running down the trail, waving my stick up and down screaming every 30 yards like a crazy person.

 I don’t care how this looks, I think adamantly… scanning ledges, heavy thickets of brush, and runoff valleys.

don’t care how this looks…I’m not getting eaten by a mountain lion.

I am NOT getting eaten by a mountain lion.

I’m three quarters through my run, having decided to turn around due to a handful of fallen trees blocking my path, when I see movement ahead.

There’s something coming toward me up the trail…from the direction I just came. Before I can decide whether to slow down or stop altogether, I see it.

A dad in a baseball cap with a child’s carrier.

You know, the one for toddlers that straps to your back.

He’s followed by a woman, holding the leash of a small, white dog.
And behind them, an older woman (I’m assuming Grandma) trailed by an older man (Grandpa), carrying a fly rod.
They smile, stop, and step aside to let me pass.

And so I pass–the woman they heard whooping up the trail, carrying my skull pocket knife in one hand and a stick in the other–and they continue on their way up their spiderweb-, mountain lion-free path.

You’re welcome, I laugh to myself.

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Ever had a run that got YOU looking over your shoulder? Or whooping every 30 yards?

About Erin Spaulding
Northern Michigan born 'n' raised and living in Seattle. When I'm not running (sometimes to work, literally!), I enjoy fly fishing, craft beers, exploring the Pacific Northwest outdoors with my husband and pup, and *gasp* my job! Loving my Brooks family <3.
  • brooksblog

    Running stores have lots of great tips! Some things– like the magic of a trail run– you can only learn on your own, though. Run Happy!

  • Amy

    This is hilarious!! Erin, you crack me up, girl! Thank you for sharing your exciting adventure and making those of us who have found themselves in similar, potentially embarrassing situations, feel more human 🙂 Onward!

  • Lora

    Ha, LOVE this! I do the same thing to myself. Sounds like an amazing place to run, though!

  • Andrew Todd

    Don’t take a knife, take a fly rod…

    Great post, Erin.