On June 4, 2017, the Trail Run Tribe took their first run together. We ran 3.47 miles on the Great Gorge Trail in Ohiopyle State Park along the Youghiogheny River.
It was two months after having my second son, Grey, that I decided to transform a small running group (begun in 2015) of women who met at my house or local yoga studios to run a couple miles together into an all-female trail running group. Inspired by the film, Running with the Belles, I began contacting every running woman with whom I wanted to share some quality time, and whom I wanted to get to know a little better.
Now with two young boys at home, I longed to share the trails and wilderness with these women, to guide them through the woods, a place that always brought me peace, joy, confidence and clarity, in hopes that it would do the same for them. Returning to my heart and passion, I planned out runs for us on the trails that I had been running since age 11, as a native of Ohiopyle.
Ditching the ease and convenience of the pavement, I was unsure whether anyone would join me. Trail running was new to the majority of them. Yet, on that very first morning, I was surprised and elated when 13 of us took to the trail together. WOW! It worked! Adventure filled us up. It felt so good. I smiled all day.
Since that first day, we have run together three to five times each month, from two to 17 miles. We average five to eight women per run, and have had up to 10 and 11. Only two times has it been me and one other, and we have never cancelled a run due to lack of women showing up. In our first year together, we met 45 times, ran 352 total miles and eight races.
We show up... in all temperatures, from zero degrees to 100, in all conditions, from icy and snowy to muddy and rainy to sticky and humid.
We, so different from one another, individually unique, with a single, unbending, unifying love... RUNNING, have grown to cherish our time alone, always uplifting one another with laughs and encouragement.
I established the Trail Run Tribe on the nearest date to June 1, the day my dad died in 2013. In some regard, the Trail Run Tribe was a way to honor him and recognize his fearless, be-you, do-you ways. He gave me the courage to believe that the Trail Run Tribe would work, that aiming toward my heart's deepest desires was the only way, and the only way to inspire others to do the same.
At first we did not have a name. Then one day, during a run, Shane, one who had never missed a run, called us the Trail Tribe. We immediately loved it. A few months later, I gave us a middle name: Run. Yes, that's right... Run is our middle name.
I take pride in the fact that the Trail Run Tribe does not have a Facebook page. We do not and will never put all-calls out on social media for membership. The group has grown organically, from friendships, from community, from word of mouth, from face-to-face, one-on-one, personal conversations. The privacy and authenticity that arises from this type of grassroots, tight-knit group is what makes it the safe, warm, solace-seeking space that I yearned to create.
Of course, we are open, accepting and happy to new runners! We've hosted out-of-town women who have sought us out, and we LOVE to welcome them with open arms! Yet we do not strive to grow numbers, and new runners come along naturally.
The way runs are announced is kept simple: via group text, and a separate confirmation response, to decrease the stressors of always being "on."
Since forming the Trail Run Tribe, I have discovered other amazing trail running entities, such as the Trail Sisters, Run Wild Retreats, Territory Run Co., West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners, the Healthy Runners' Community, and the list goes on.
I could not be happier and more thankful for the women who trusted in my dream, took this leap together, and formed the badass beauty of the Trail Run Tribe.
We run to inspire, to find our happy place and laugh, and post about our adventures to bring you smiles :) Follow us on my personal Instagram account @brynn_cunningham #trailruntribe
Video by Trail Run Tribe member Colleen O'neil