Are you a runner that is sick of avoiding traffic, tired of the same boring route? Perhaps you just enjoy being out in the woods and want to spend more time taking advantage of the beautiful scenery we are surrounded by? Whatever your reason may be, trail running is a great way to break the monotony of running on pavement as well as soak in the local landscape. Follow these five tips to get you on your way!
1. Buy trail shoes. Essentially the most important piece of equipment for running is your shoes. You may feel like you can use your road running shoes for trail running, but this is not the best idea. If you look at trail running shoes, you will notice there is more rugged tread on them. You need that support and stability in order to grip on rocks and dirt.
2. Be prepared to go slower. You can’t expect to run your road pace on a trail. When you are running on a consistent surface, you can kind of “zone out” and keep a consistent pace if not speed up as you warm up. Trail running involves constantly changing surfaces and stride, and often times has more elevation than what you encounter running on the road. Therefore, your pace may slow down and fluctuate throughout your run.
3. Pay attention to where you are stepping. Generally this is not a concern when road running. You can focus your gaze ahead for the most part. With trail running, you need to be looking about 6 feet ahead so that you can plan your foot placement. This makes trail running a little more of a “mental” challenge than road running.
4. Be prepared. You may be used to running without water or any other supplies. With trail running, it is important to be prepared with water and/or a snack as you will likely be out longer. Just be sure you don’t leave any trash on the trail. There is nothing worse than seeing energy gel wrappers in the woods. Also, some people like to take a bear whistle for safety and a map. Make sure you know the trail you are going on so that you don’t risk getting lost or run with an experienced runner or group.
5. Use trail etiquette. Do not wear headphones. You need to be aware of your surroundings. Not only is it important because of wildlife, but also other people using the trail. If a mountain biker alerts you that they are coming (which most will), you need to move to the side of the trail or step off completely until they pass. Generally passing is done on the left side. If you are passing a hiker or another runner, make sure you alert them (you can simply say “on your left”). Don’t run in the middle of the trail especially when it is really busy, stay towards right side.
Enjoy your surroundings and have a great run!