Jane Grates, a fitness guru, traveler and cyclist. Doing at the intersection of art to craft an inspiring, compelling and authentic narrative. She spends most of her time writing incredible reviews on Runnerclick, Nicershoes, GearWeAre and ThatSweetGift.
It makes my soul sing that so many people these days are discovering the joy and liberating force that comes with running. Having a bad day? Go for a run. Need to burn off some steam? Go for a run. Want to show yourself that you’re physically, mentally, or emotionally capable of more than you could ever get yourself credit for? Go for a run. Likely now more than ever, people are discovering just how awesome running can be for their lives, their waistlines, and their happiness.
Despite so many people flocking to running and racing, curiously, it seems to remain a little-known secret that there’s another side of running that’s arguably just as great, if not greater, than road running, the type of running with which most people are well-acquainted. There’s a wonderful type of running out there that can challenge you even more than you can believe, and it’s a type of running that lets you forget about pace (and most statistics, in general) and instead connects you to the wonder of nature and your natural environs.
Welcome, my friends, to trail running.
Lots of folks think that trail running is only for the badass, hardcore runners of the world, and that’s simply not true. Trail running -- like running, in general -- is open to everyone. You don’t have to be a pro mountain or trail runner; you could even consider yourself a “roads runner” but still run trails each week or month and benefit from it.
If you’re new to trail running and are stumped on where to get started, consider my recommendations below, a primer, if you will, for trail running. Taken together, I think my recommendations will help get you on the right foot, right away.
Connect with a local trail group near you. If you’re brand-new to trails, chances are high that you don’t know what you don’t know. It’ll behoove you, then, to connect with trail runners who are more experienced than you. The easiest way to do this is to connect with local trail runners, perhaps through a local facebook group or a local running club, and to simply ask questions of them and go along with them on their group runs. Everyone was new at this stuff one time or another; let these veteran trail runners help you out. In time, you’ll be able to pay it forward, too.
Don’t go out and buy all new stuff right away. Before you drop an entire paycheck on tons of new trail running gear, first see if what you already have will work for the type of trails you want to run. Sure, it might be tempting to get all new shoes and socks and gear that are designed specifically for trails, but the stuff you have that’s designed for roads might be just as good and still get the job done. Plus, you can save your money for trail race registration costs.
Sign up for some local trail races. Closely related to my first point, when you’re new to the trail running scene and don’t know what you don’t know, one of the best ways to get better at the sport and to connect with other like-minded (or like-interests) runners is by running and racing trails as often as you can. Check online or at your local running store to see if there are any local trail races near you, and if there are some that’ll fit in your current training plan, consider jumping in one without much expectation (or hesitation!). Starting lines at races -- as well as finish lines! -- are seriously magical, and it’s the same at trail races, too. The vibe just can’t be beat.
Expect to be slower on the trails than you are on roads. Trail running is very different from road running if for no other reason than because your pace adjustments are huge; in other words, don’t expect to run the same type of speeds on trails that you do on roads. Trail running presents tons of different challenges to you that you don’t get on running roads, such as technical terrain littered with trees, rocks, brush, and roots; mud; steep ascents; steeper descents; and maybe even some snow, altitude, river crossings, or sand thrown in for good measure. Don’t sweat it, though; part of the beauty of running trails is simply being able to appreciate the environs through which you get to run and race. Let go of your pace expectations, and simply have a good time with it.
Read up on the sport, and get involved. Trail running seems to lend itself to great writing, so one way that you can easily learn more about the sport, its history, its athletes, and its future is by simply reading about it. Consider picking up Scott Jurek’s autobiography, Born to Run, or reading Trail Runner magazine or irunfar online. Through these publications, you can learn about ways that you can support the sport, too, since volunteers also play a huge role in trail running’s success each year.
Trail running -- like running in general -- is a lot of fun, naturally, and is what you make of it. If you’re a roads runner who is feeling burnt-out or bored, taking a break from the roads and transitioning over to trails may be just the right thing for both your running and your soul. Running trails often forces you to slow down -- both literally and figuratively -- and take a break from the stressors of daily life. In very few other circumstances in modern life are we ever given the opportunity to take stock of our surroundings and simply be thankful for the ability to observe them or be immersed in them, yet trail running gives us this opportunity as often as we’d like it. Plus, as seasons change throughout the year, trail running will give you a front-row pass to experience it and both see and experience the beauty firsthand.
What are you waiting for?!