In the military, there is a training or school for “Pathfinders” and they invaluable in airborne operations. They “Light The Way” for the incoming paratroopers and make sure that their landing zones are properly marked and safe. Such expertise and skill can be learned with a 3-week training in a Pathfinder’s School/Training Facility.
I had the chance to meet and see how these airborne soldiers were trained when I was in the US Army Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia, USA in the mid-80s.
I did not realize that this will be my role as the promoter of ultrarunning/ultra marathon events in the country. Since I started to love ultra marathon, I have been a pathfinder for ultra routes whether it is on the roads and trails.
It was very convenient to be a “pathfinder” on the road ultras as I can easily pinpoint the route or place on the map and then actually run through the route on my own. Most of the ultra marathon events that I organize and direct were born or established this way–actually run the route and find out the elevation and distance.
As I shifted more on trail runs in the mid-part of this year, I practically transformed myself as a “pathfinder” in my playground. As I get farther and farther on the distance that I could cover during the day, I would take note of places where I could rest, refill my hydration bottles with water, “engage” people or residents along the route/trail, and establish distance markers or points.
It is the responsibility of the “pathfinder” that his “follow-on” forces will not be lost as he leads them to their “landing zones”. For the past weeks, I had been accepting interested runners to have a glimpse of my playground and most of the time, someone among the group gets lost. But I am glad some would find their way back to where we started or just keep still in their location until we find them where they are located. Sometimes, I would laugh and tell the person/s who got lost that they are my “offerings” to those spirits that guard the mountains!
As of now, the trails that I’ve “found” in the mountains are for training purposes for me and for those who are interested to see the place. I don’t usually invite runners to join me in my training in the mountains as most of them have family and work to attend to during the weekdays. For some, they have also their respective “playground” which is more accessible to them from their residences and offices.
Being a “pathfinder” is a hard task as it takes a lot of time of patience and discipline. But if you love nature and the outdoors, your time in the mountains looking for trails and other land features is worth the task as you can share it to other people to see and to feel.
Lace up, go out of the door and run!