Spirits were high when our little group of 7 set out to run Sandsjöbackaleden. It was a cool, sunny day, and nature was doing its best to impress us with its beauty. None of us had run the whole trail before, so the mutual feeling was one of nervous anticipation.
The first couple of kilometres were run on tarmac. It's not that simple to get to Sandsjöbacka nature reserve. The big blue bus doesn't drive past it on Saturdays. Thankfully it wasn't hard to find, and it was a nice little area we had to run through to get there.
The trail hit us hard from the beginning. Stones, roots, mud and hills were the norm during the first 8 kilometres, with almost no flat ground on which to rest and find a comfortable rhythm. It was almost like a concentration test; blink and you might break a leg on one of the stones jutting out of the mud, or get a big wound from one of the roots breaking through the ground. We tripped several times, but thankfully no one was injured – not even a scratch.
A brief respite came around the 10th kilometre, when we came to a dirt road leading to some houses. Some small dogs living in the garden of one of the houses seemed very excited to see us, and their sharp yapping accompanied us long after we were out of sight. After a short break to drink some water and eat some dextrose tablets, it was back to the woods. The ground was flatter now, which was appreciated by our tired legs. Soon we reached a stable. The horses all looked at us curiously, us weird – looking, colourful creatures running past.
We had run 15 kilometres at this point. A steep hill defeated me, and I had to walk up it, drinking as I went. At the top, with renewed energy from another dextrose tablet, I started running again. The others seemed to be in much better form than me. That is unfortunately almost always the case during our group runs. Not so much fun for them, having to wait for me, but unbelievably good for me that I have to push myself in order to keep up. I've become much stronger and braver thanks to our group runs.
We arrived at a farm, and from here on it was all very familiar to me. Sandsjöbackaleden here is the same as Torrekullaleden's western half, which I have run a couple of times and hiked a few more. Once you reach Oxsjön, the rugged trail turns into a nice path, which (although hilly) is much easier to run on. Normally. When you haven't just run 20 kilometres.
I was a wreck. Small hills that I otherwise find easy seemed like a mountain now. I had to stop again, so close to the end of the trail that it felt pathetic. Drank more water. Pushed onwards again. Finally arrived at the end of the trail, and made several appreciative noises. Like "Yay!" and "We made it!"
But it didn't end there. I still had to get home somehow. The others chose to follow me instead of taking the bus, some of them wanting to run all the way home and some to take a different, more convenient bus further down the road. Another 2 kilometres logged brought the total to a knee-busting 25 kilometres.
This was a much needed trail session. I have to improve. Trail running takes you to such breathtakingly beautiful places, that you'd otherwise miss if you only ran on paved roads. But in order to enjoy these places and not just feel that it hurts all over, I need to get better at it. Good thing there are some cool trails around here!