Guest Blogger Alisyn Gularte

The leaves crackle under my feet. There is a slight breeze in the air as my lungs burn from the high elevation climbs. Whiffs of fresh pine and eucalyptus surround my senses. Inspiration is all around, as I stop briefly to take in everything mother nature has to offer. I might be running slower than my usual average pace, but it’s that challenge of trail running that makes it all worthwhile!

While I am a full time road runner, it’s the trails that I seem to continuously gravitate toward. I keep my focus ten feet in front of me to avoid obstacles on unpredictable terrain. I speed walk up steep hill climbs where my award is running down those mountains pretending I am on a roller coaster shouting  WHEE…. excitedly all the way down. I fuel far more than I ever would on the roads snacking on peanut butter pretzels, or 18 Rabbits Granola Bars. I stop to take pictures of all the beauty that the trails bring.

Don't forget to stop and kiss a banana slug as well as take a few pictures!

Of course the trails aren’t always fresh pine smells and picturesque views. There have been several occasions where I have fallen, and eaten a good portion of dirt thus getting in my daily amount of minerals. It is frightening, and on some of these falls, I even drew a little blood. Because I seem to take spills often, I have learned to put my hands out in front of me to try and catch my fall. Also, while I suppose it is not ideal to fall on my behind, it is perhaps better than falling on my head when tumbling down. I almost always have a buddy when I am on the trails, but there are those few occasions that I run alone. I tend to go off the beaten path a lot so carrying a map and a cell phone are both necessities.

I have encountered some strange things while running on the trails, everything from crawdads to mountain lions. As an animal lover, this is a huge treat for me to see, but coming across animals can be a bit frightening. In the case of the mountain lion, my first reaction was to run faster, but I forced myself to stop and make a lot of noise. Holding the height of 5’3, I stood on my tippy toes and jumped up and down trying to look bigger than I was. Luckily, the mountain lion was too timid to try anything and ran the other direction. It was scary and exciting all at the same time! This might not be a common occurrence but it does indeed happen as it happened to me!

One of my favorite places to run is the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos, Ca. In the summertime, the canopy of trees help the climate not to get too hot. The lush green plant life, and steep hill climbs make this a very rewarding trail run.

Forest of Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos, Ca.

Fellow ambassadors also share my love of trail running -

Ambassador Chris claims that the greatest trail he has ever run was the Bright Angel/ North Kaibab trails where he ran the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim run.

Ambassador Albert’s favorite trail of all time is the Leif Erikson Trail in Portland Oregon.

Ambassador Roni loves to run the Double Dipsea located just North of San Francisco and Rancho San Antonio which can be found south of SF in the city of Los Altos.
And San Francisco Marathon’s very own staff Jojo absolutely adores the Tilden Trail in Conta Costa County.

Sadly, over 70 State Parks in California have shut down. To give back to the running trails that I love so, as well as keep those state parks striving, I volunteer my time on occasion with The California State Parks Foundations. It’s dirty work, but at the end of the day, I am comforted by the fact that other runner’s will enjoy the trails a little bit longer.

How about you? Do you like to run trails? Where is your favorite place to run?

Alisyn Gularte, a native to the Bay Area, is a Social Media Manager by day, Blogger by night, and a runner everywhere in between. Alisyn is ecstatic to be representing The San Francisco Marathon as the 2012 Ambassador as she hopes to give back to the running community that has been such an amazing support. You can find Alisyn on Twitter or visit her blog at Runinsyn.com.