When Maggie found herself isolated from friends, from plans and even class, she turned to trail running. She learned some valuable lessons about herself, and her body, along the way.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Awabakal and Darkinjung people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

When the big lockdown began in the middle of 2021, I struggled through the only way I know how.

I ran.

From the shores of Lake Macquarie where I live, the Watagan Mountains were just inside my 10km radius zone, and we got to know each other very well. Those mountains learnt my pain, they felt my sadness and my isolation. Like everyone, I was struggling to fill the gaping holes left by cancelled holidays, lost jobs, in-person education and coffee dates with mates. I missed my friends, I missed going to uni, I even missed my mostly monotonous retail job!


The pandemic began when I was 19, and for 18 months the growing feeling that my youth was being overshadowed by a global pandemic began to swallow me. By the time the big lockdown came to NSW in 2021 I felt like I was at breaking point. I started to channel all of my anger, fear, and frustration into running.



With no job, no ability to socialise and online uni, I hit the trails hard. Normally I’d run the gently undulating lakeside trails during the week, and reserve the bigtime runs for weekend bliss. Lockdown meant I had almost unlimited free time. Whenever my legs could handle it I’d take my groaning Subaru for the 20 minute drive to the base of the mountains and decide from there.

Read More: Scarpa Trail Running Shoes Have Touched Down in Aus – Here’s Your Field Guide

The days held so much potential. I had no work to be back in time for, no dinner plans to fret over, and no traffic time to factor into lectures. I could park at Martinsville Oval and run along the country roads until I found the turnoff for Slippery Rock Road (more of a dirt track than a road). I could struggle up that first kilometre of painful uphill, my thighs and calves burning until I found the sweet release of a single track that evened out and snaked its way along a hillside, perusing gurgling creeks and clusters of Gymea lilies as I went.



Or maybe I didn’t feel like Slippery Rock Road today, there was always tomorrow after all. Maybe today I could take the angular and winding Martinsville Hill Road and park my car at the Pines picnic area. Maybe I could go right down Watagan Forest Road, run 6km or so and veer left onto Bowmans Road fire trail. The trail follows a ridge and the bush starts out glossy green, then gets dry and crumbly. You can always smell wattle out there.

I ran the secluded trails unencumbered by time or commitment. What I didn’t realise was that my body had other plans.

Running Towards Overtraining

I didn’t know it at the time, but when lockdown began I was on the edge of burnout. I’d been indulging in too much of a good thing. Running over 100km a week, back-to-back long runs, little strength training and not eating enough to refuel.


When I had the time to do however much running I wanted, it didn’t take long for my body to start screaming. In retrospect, small niggles had been invading my runs for a while but on that fateful day, the pain seemed to come from nowhere.


Deep and sharp, it pulsed up my left achilles tendon. With every footstep, every beat against the dirt, the back of my ankle burned. I felt as though something was about to snap. The responsible thing would have been to turn around, I was only 3km into my run after all. Reader, you know where this is going…..



Despite my pain, my discomfort, the knowing feeling I was doing actual damage to my body, I kept running. I ran 18km, injured. For what? Why? I’m not sure. For years running had brought me a consistent high, something I could rely upon in times of strife. I’ve been running since I was 12 and my relationship with the sport hasn’t always been healthy. I think I was afraid of how I would feel without the knowledge I could hit the trails and forget about my worries if it all got too much.

All I know is that that day I irrevocably changed my relationship with my body and with running. Achilles Bursitis and tendonitis was the diagnosis. Over-training injuries that could’ve been avoided had I just listened to my body, respected its limits. I was angry and furious with myself. My physio said I wouldn’t be able to run for at least six weeks and my heart ached for the numb stretches of emptiness that lay ahead. I really had broken myself. I couldn’t even walk very far without excruciating pain.



It only took a few days for me to completely lose it, sadness and desperation taking over. I had no outlet, no way to feel like I had control, more than that. I had no way to feel like myself. I based everything I thought about myself, everything I liked about myself, my whole identity, around being a runner. I didn’t know how to be anything else.

When I couldn’t run I had no idea who I was, and it scared me.

Hardship Leads to Growth

Looking back on that time I’m really not sure how I got through it. I was so sad and so despairing. It may sound dramatic to have something like this affect me so much but it really did. After about a week of wallowing in self-pity and the occasional (ok, maybe frequent) cry, I began to think about change.

While I couldn’t run and my body and mind were forced into rest, some interesting things began to happen. I began to sleep better, I could focus more. While my achilles hurt like hell, my knees no longer ached and instead of expecting my body to perform on command, I began to engage in movement with more kindness and curiosity.

Running, especially on trails, is one of the most freeing and delightful sports and I hadn’t been giving it the respect it deserved.

I couldn’t put weight on my achilles, so I began to explore other sports.

I swam, salty water against my skin, from one side of the bay to the other till I got tired. I also rode, something I really hadn’t done since I was a kid. The sweaty push up a hill followed by the sweet release of adrenaline, one that pulled you all the way back down at speeds that sometimes frightened me, brought new life to my mind.

By the time I was strong enough to start running again, my relationship with my body, and with running, had completely changed.



Yes, as soon as I could I went up those mountains and I ran, but this time I was different. I had a new appreciation for running, a new respect for my legs and where they could take me. I can’t say I won’t make the same mistakes again. I love running with a fiery passion. It’s who I am, and it’s how I grew up and it’s how I discover who I’m becoming.

But what I know now is that when the niggles come and my knees get sore, I have the wisdom to listen. I know what to do.


This article is thanks to the Scarpa Spin trail running range which has just launched in Australia. Read our field guide to find out more about the shoes and chase your own trail adventures.