A Simple Equation
by Willie McBride
I reached out to two runners I had never met, before I moved to Portland, OR. I'd never done something like that, never put myself out there to a couple of perfect strangers, asking to connect, seeking friendship and community. I was a trail runner I reasoned, and a burgeoning ultra runner and I wanted to meet like-minded people and needed folks to train with. Not knowing what to expect, I didn't expect much at all.
People in Portland are nice, this I learned quickly. I've never felt so welcomed anywhere in my life. Both guys I'd contacted--Yassine Diboun and Nick Triolo--got back to me and were astonishingly friendly. They each told me to call them when I arrived and that they'd take me out running around town, guide me around the trails, help me cut my teeth in the Gorge, show me the ropes.
On my first day in town, before I even had a chance to call, I headed for the trails in the expansive urban wilderness called Forest Park. It is the prized aspect of the city to trail runners and countless others. I’d been hiking with my girlfriend for 20 minutes, switchbacking up the well-worn Wild Cherry Trail, when a speedy looking runner in a thin orange jacket came cruising by. I did a double-take as he passed and couldn't believe it.
"That's him!" I whispered to my girlfriend, suddenly feeling shy. "That's Yassine, I'm pretty sure."
At that same moment he turned and did a double-take as well. We locked eyes…
He halted his momentum and jogged back a few paces. We shook hands, smiling in our mutual astonishment and laughing at the crazy coincidence. I had no idea at that time just how much those trails would come to feel like a small town in the trees. Running into multiple friends and clients in our extended family of trail goers on any given run is practically standard. It amazes me still.
Since those first days in the city things have really blossomed. Nick and Yassine grew to be two of my closest and most influential friends. Yassine and I decided to join forces and make our passions and dreams into a coaching/training business called Animal Athletics, something that has changed both our lives in many wonderful and fulfilling ways. There are countless other wonderful, notable characters in the Portland clan and I am constantly reminded as to the great fortune of having made so many dear friends.
I always say that the best part of my job is the people I get to work with, this community we are lucky to be a part of and that we are also helping to develop and expand. The more the merrier, right? It reassures my faith in humanity and the world to witness this concentration of kind, inspiring, good people. I've heard it from countless folks in all different sporting circles: if they've ever experienced a trail running event they agree it to be the most laid-back, un-egotistical scene there is. Front-of-the-packers, back-of-the-packers, fast, slow, medium-paced, it doesn't seem to matter. All that fades away when the commonality is the earth, a mountain trail through the trees, a ridge-top dance lesson. There is racing, there is world-class competition, but it's with a little twist. It's different. You can come see for yourself, feel the love of the community and witness the awesome bond of foot travel. It's pretty simple when you boil it down: everyone is rooting for everyone else.
Now you can do the math for yourself:
Take a sporting scene that is inherently friendly (not to mention literally and figuratively down-to-earth) and add wonderful, welcoming people and the beautiful trails that lie within and around Portland, Oregon…
What do you get?