Our theme for May is Challenge Yourself, and our expert for this topic is trail runner and founder of Trail Runners Brabant, Albert van Dommelen.
Albert is a former military man, but when he left that very active career behind, he found himself in an office job, sitting for long hours, losing his fitness and gaining weight. Realizing this wasn’t who he was, or what he wanted, he decided to hit the gym to get back on a healthier track. Inspired by his cousin in Spain who was training for an Iron Man event, Albert added cycling, swimming and running to his fitness regime. And as luck would have it, he then met a trail runner. Before long, he signed up for his first trail running event – a 75km run in the Ardennes. He was hooked.
What happened next?
Only a month later, Albert finished his second event. This time – 92km! But how did he do it?
“I spent 15 – 20 hours a week training. I was running between 80km and 120km each week, cycling, and going to the gym once or twice a week. My priority was sport, and I made time for it, getting exercise in before and after work. I was physically strong and I was pushing my limits. But it was also a mindset. That was, and is, really important.”
Why trail running?
Albert is quick to talk about the beauty of getting out on the trails:
“We live in a really busy world, but trail running takes us back to basics. When you’re in the middle of nature, you realize how impressive it is, and how small you are. You’re alone with yourself and your only goal is the trail. You give whatever you can that day. You give all you have.”
And you don’t need to go far to find some beautiful trails. He rattles off a number of places close to Eindhoven, such as Gulbergen, Oirschotse Heide, Kampina, Sonse Bossen and Strabrechtse Heide.
He also mentions the awesome feeling of overcoming the challenges of the trails, like technicalities, distance, weather, breathing difficulties at higher altitudes, and that sometimes your body just wants to give up, but your mind needs to tell you to keep pushing on.
Some expert advice
Albert thinks one of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to trail running, and indeed any sport, is looking only at the things you can’t do. He stresses, however, that it’s more important to look at the possibilities, to have dedication, and to enjoy the ride.
And one last thing:
“Challenging yourself is different for everyone. The way I challenge myself is different to how you challenge yourself. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others but be supportive of each other.” – Albert van Dommelen
Albert also manages Urban Trail Brabant. This group organizes weekly urban runs, including lunch runs, pop-ups, and Eindje Rennen (you can read all about this one here). Be sure to check them out on Instagram, too.