Editor’s note: This is part one of a four-part series on trail running for new runners.
One of the few bright spots from the coronavirus pandemic is the renewed interest in fitness, running specifically, as well as getting back to nature by exploring trails. It does not come as a surprise that there are new trail runners who are discovering the physical and mental benefits of an hour or more spent zipping down a dirt path, soaking in the delights of nature.
Soon after I became a runner, I took to the trails, which I now enjoy more than road running.
If you are new to trail running, here are some tips to get started:
Pace yourself. Don't expect to run as fast as you did on the roads or even similar paces on different trails. Each trail has its own challenges, some are laden with rocks, others have steep climbs while others can be smooth sailing. Oftentimes experienced runners will not count miles, but go by effort or time.
Find joy. It's a personal mantra and hashtag of mine. Running the same neighborhood route repeatedly can sap motivation. As you explore trails, look around and soak in all that nature has to offer. Just remember to watch where you are going too. Those tree roots can be tricky.
Be aware of your surroundings. Inattentive drivers are hazards for runners on roads and sidewalks. While even the most distracted driver won't likely end up on a trail, there are other creatures you need to be wary of. Depending on where you are running, you might find bears, snakes, skunks, mountain lions or other animals. Keep your head on a swivel, listen to your surroundings and don't take chances.
Get a good pair of trail shoes. Technically, you could run trails in road shoes. But trail shoes are made specifically to handle the technical aspects like roots, mud, etc. that you won't find on roads, sidewalks or other paved surfaces. I've been a review for RunningShoesGuru.com for several years. Since the website owner pays for the shoes, our reviews are authentic and provide research based on our knowledge of various brands and the minimum of 50 miles per shoes before we draft a review. Check out the collection of reliable reviews at RunningShoesGuru.
Pack in, pack out. You will want to bring your own hydration and nutrition for runs an hour or longer. Be sure that whatever you bring onto the trail with you to start leaves with you as well. Don’t leave wrappers, bottles or other items behind. It’s up to all of us to keep the trails clean so that we may continue to enjoy them.
Find new routes. Social-distancing measures may limit your options, depending on where you live and your access to trails. There are several good options for discovering new routes to check out. Among them:
Local runners: A local running store or running group is a good first step to learn about area trails from those who regularly run them. If stores remain closed and group runs cancelled, check Facebook pages or websites for ideas or to send a question.
Mobile apps: There are plenty of mobile apps that will assist. I like the TrailRunProject app, which allows you to find and download various routes. It will also track you, showing you where you are on the trail.
Thanks for reading! And let me know what other topics you would like covered in this weekly series.