Dirt, tree roots, loosely strewn pebbles and the crunch of leaves underfoot – trail running does have a certain rustic charm to it when one considers the type of experience that tends to follow. Running off-road creates an unmistakable sense of adventure that is largely absent in conventional outdoor running. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Eti Rodriguez is so enamoured with the activity; he’s certainly ran more than his fair share of trails! We talk to him to find out more about himself and the sport he loves so much.
1. What is trail running in a nutshell?
Trail running is more or less a literal definition of the sport. It’s running on trails and sometimes off trails – into mountains and along beaches and through forests.
2. Why does trail running appeal to you so much?
I think it’s so attractive because it’s freeing. It provides an opportunity to get away from the urban confines of our day to day lives. It’s meditative for me, and it doesn’t feel quite like training in the way that road running or track workouts do.
3. How did you get into the sport?
A guy named Vlad Ixel sort of introduced it to me several years ago when we were both located in Perth. We were both relatively active and competitive by nature, but hadn’t done much in the way of running. We started running in the hills on our days off work, and augmenting our training with road running.
4. What are some of your accomplishments in trail running?
I’ve won the North Face 50 Singapore twice (I think I have the CR too), winner of Ultraks Matterhorn 30km (Zermatt, Switzerland), winner of Ultra Stampede (Hammersmith, New Zealand), and some wins and podiums in Hong Kong. I think my best running achievement is a 1:12 half marathon.
5. What are some of your “must-haves” when you get on the trail?
Hoka Speedgoats! I’m not sponsored – but they are the best trail shoes I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. Podcasts are also nice if I’m not racing.
6. Describe what goes in your head in the moments leading up to a race.
I get myself into a mindset of pain expectancy. I sort of drill it into my head that it’s going to hurt, and just get used to the idea – I make sure that if it’s a close race, the people around me are going to hurt too (whether I win or lose).
7. Do you like to train in the morning or evening?
Afternoon / evening. I hate training in the morning – I feel stiff. My workouts aren’t the quality of what they are after I’ve been awake for at least a couple of hours.
8. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Check my phone – Facebook, email, WhatsApp.
9. I love…
Cities, particularly big, vibrant, 24/7 cities.
10. I dislike…
Inauthentic outrage – especially when it is related to political correctness
11. My inspiration is…
12. What is your 'can't live without' item in your gym bag?
I mostly just run, so running clothes and shoes. I don’t go to the gym other than to do ab work, bodyweight exercises, treadmill runs and very recently, stretching.
13. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“Bravery is when you’re scared but you do it anyway.” Or “live your life as if you’re the hero of your own story.”
Unfortunately, I pay far too little attention to both of these pieces of advice.
14. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
A terrible Chinese buffet breakfast in the mountains of Sichuan, China.
15. Who would you most like to train with or train?
Probably not a runner, honestly. I think I’d like to be a fly on the wall to see how Floyd Mayweather trains (perhaps the pound for pound best boxer ever) – he’s renowned for his work ethic.
16. What is your number 1 favourite piece of fitness equipment and why?
Treadmill. I love the treadmill. I find that you are able to tailor your training very well to it – particularly when honing in on climbing and speed.
17. What is your top tip for someone aiming to be an elite athlete? (or getting into fitness if the person isn’t an elite athlete)
Running specific: power to weight ratio and volume in training are the two key pillars I think. Obviously both of these things need to be done intelligently and gradually.
General fitness: hard work and consistency.
18. Clearly you've hit many of your own personal and professional goals over the years, but we guess a person like you is always striving for more. What's at the top of your list to want to accomplish right now?
I haven’t hit my goals, really. I just want to improve as a person and be successful and to contribute positively – there’s a really good opportunity to do some of these things through TheGreenRace.
19. Your favourite quote: (by whom)
Regarding the universe, the speed at which we’re travelling on our planet, through our solar system, through the universe, the enormity or infiniteness of the cosmos, Martin Amis says:
“It might help if we felt all this. It might help if we knew all this. The universe is high style, and what are we?”
20. What kind of advice would you give to someone who’s only just coming into trail running?
I’d recommend interspersing trail running with road running. I think exclusively trail running can shorten one’s stride – mixing the two seems to work well.
21. What has been your favourite trail to run so far?
Probably Sierra Nevada, northern Nevada – an absolutely stunning trail run at elevation around Lake Tahoe.
22. Have you chanced upon any interesting sights while on a trail?
Nothing particularly unique. I’ve seen a bunch of snakes in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia. Animal carcasses in the mountains of China (apparently the victim of wolves).
Apart from that, I’ve definitely freaked myself out running through crop fields before!
23. Who would you most like to tandem sky dive with?
Absolutely nobody! That’s totally terrifying.
Aside from conquering trails all over the world, Eti is also part of TheGreenRace team, which aims to promote environmental awareness and give back to the community through sustainable enjoyment of the outdoors. If you feel like running alongside a seasoned professional, why not sign up for their upcoming races? Schlepping through a park does lack a certain pizzazz after all!
Photo Credits: Studio Zag