As part of the Go Green, Get Fit Challenge with the EcoMom Alliance, I’ve taken to the trail. I’ve been running on roads for years. The trail gives an added challenge, and a new direction in the sport I love so much. So far, I’ve hit the trails on several runs, and here is I have learned so far.
1. You will not go as far as you are used to. It will take longer. Don’t be demoralized!
I usually run between 3-6 miles on the roads, and when I run for an hour, I expect to go 6-7 miles or more. Not trail running! With the extreme hills, bumpy footing, and navigation, trail running is much slower. I have gone on runs for an hour with my Garmin watch totaling my miles, which came out at 4 miles total. This made my 12 mile trail race goal feel like more than a marathon. I’ll keep working on it, but for the time being I know that I will simply be a bit slower and not go as far as I expected on the trail. And that is okay. For a runner used to logging a certain number of miles, this is easier said than done.
2. You will fall!
This has happened to me on several occasions. Usually its when I have spaced out, deep in thought, then before I know it, splat! Down in the mud. Talk about a physical reminder to be mindful and present! Trail running (like yoga) demands this. It takes mental training to pull your mind into focus on the trail in front of you, looking where you want to go (not where you don’t want to go). I am working on this.
3. You have to pay attention more.
Many times when I am running I simply slog along, deep in thought, paying almost no attention to where I am going. Not with trail running! You have to plan out your route, and follow it or you might end up in the middle of Timbuktu. If you do an out and back, or wing it, you must pay attention to every trail, and every turn off so you keep track of where you are. I spent several minutes at signs recently, figuring out where I was and where I was headed. While this interrupts the run, it is time well spent if you want to make it home for dinner.
4. You will be sore.
A road runner is used to the even road surface. Trail running supplies none of this. A constantly changing surface, trail running holds uneven terrain, from hard rock to sand, to deep mud. I was surprised that after a 4 mile run (which I do all the time) I was sore. The shorter steps, the quick moves, and the uneven terrain made my hamstrings and calves more sore than I expected.
5. Get some good trail shoes.
I overpronate excessively and need stability running shoes most of the time. But these light and cushy rides are perfect for hitting the trail. They have a much lower profile which protects the ankles. The tread is aggressive and sticks to rocks, logs and other slippery surfaces. These trail shoes have a light, water resistant exterior, and laces you can pull tight and tuck in. They have a bit higher sides to keep out rocks and dirt. This takes a bit to get used to but is very helpful. These shoes are super cushy compared to my firm stability trainers. I didn’t want to take them off! I can see hiking in them too.
I have read these kinds of tips a thousand times but nothing drives home lessons like hard earned experience. Go out on the trails, and see if these tips help, and share your own here! I’d love to hear about your experience trail running.
image: seeannarun on Flickr under CC