Trail running is rapidly growing in popularity as runners look for new adventures and variety in their running experience. That is truly one of the best things about running in general, there is something for everyone!
Trails offer a very different experience for runners and to get the most of your runs you need to consider several factors including terrain, technique, safety and equipment.
The terrain of trails is one of the best aspects however you need to be ready for some new challenges. Trails offer amazing variety and can range from gravel paths to highly technical single trails through mountainous and rough terrain. Rocks, tree roots, mud, ditches and leaves can all throw you off balance and when you include hills, descents and water crossings things can get really intense.
Training should include scaling your runs according to your ability and slowly adding challenges to allow adaptation over time. If you are a newbie don’t try to tackle a technical course at speed. You risk having a nasty fall and sustaining an injury that could really disrupt your running.
Technique is also crucial on trails, particularly on hills and descents. When running uphill make sure you maintain good strong posture and use your hips and glutes to power you. Use your arms for extra drive, keep your head up and stay relaxed. Downhills need extra care. Don’t get carried away with speed, use your arms for extra balance and avoid distractions. Stay light on your feet.
Strength training will also improve your trail running experience. Focusing on balance, ankle stability and postural strength will improve your performance.
Safety considerations are a must for trail runners. Ideally running with friends is a safer option but if you want to run solo you should stick to a few basic principles. Always carry a mobile phone and ensure that you will have adequate reception. Check out the area you are running in before you head out. It only takes a few minutes to look up google maps to check for any warnings or risk factors. Be aware of daylight hours. Don’t head into an unknown area late in the day.
Trails also require extra equipment. Access to water is a must so if you are heading out on a descent trail run you should consider carrying some supplies. There are plenty of lightweight belts and packs that will carry water and nutrition without hindering your running.
If you are heading out later in the day you should also carry a small head torch as weather and daylight conditions can change rapidly, particularly in heavily treed areas. You can’t rely on street lights out on the trails.
Trail running is amazing. The challenges are endless, so if you are new to trail running start off gently and develop your skills.