I started trail running 3 years ago on a whim to go on a “different” run. And I fell in love, even though I was painfully slow (Thanks to Big Peach Running Co, Marietta GA, for organizing Friday Morning Moms Run at the trails for my initiation).
The first time I went back to explore on my own, I was armed with a phone and pepper spray (Don’t Laugh. But I’m paranoid, better safe than sorry! And really most of the times there is not a soul in sight, and I sure can’t outrun anyone.) I took forever (1hr 20 min) to run a little over 5 miles. It was an amazing feeling to run so long with nothing but thoughts in my head and the rustle of leaves. And I have since gone back many times to get away from it all.
I’m sharing some Trail Running Tips based on what I have learnt
- Trail miles is NOT equal to road miles.
The 5 miles that I ran seemed like 8 or 10 miles. It kept going on forever and ever. Trail miles feel longer and harder than road miles. But they are easier on your body due to lack of pavement pounding. Most people run on trails by time rather than distance seeing positive results in their increase in endurance.
- A LOT of muscles make up running legs.
When I run on the road, my legs are tired. When I ran on the trails, my legs were sore! Picking up my feet to run made my Quads, calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, everything feel like it had gotten a major workout. Which it had- I had just done hill repeats a thousand times over, even though it was an “easy” run!
- Running shoes are not the best for trail running.
With the memories of my one and only trail run from last year still fresh, I had to catch myself at times over the leaves and sticks, even stopping to walk at times. While I’m not running out to buy a $100+ trail shoes yet, I know that it is an investment I will have to make sooner or later if I am going to run more trails.
- Water and Fuel are just as important, and maybe even more!
Although I carried my own water and fuel, I didn’t eat anything until an hour later (my 4 mile mark for first Gu on the road). By that time, I was done and tired out. I had 3 more miles on the flat trails planned, but just could not push myself towards it. I know that if I had replenished myself at a 45minute mark, I would have plenty left in the tank. Also, I almost ran out of water and was wishing for a familiar water fountain. But being the wilderness (or, as near to wilderness is possible in the midst of a busy city), there was none to be found.
- I may be paranoid, but Safety is very important.
I ran with a pepper spray, and while proper trail runners might laugh at me, I know that I will carry my pepper spray every time I run alone. The trails are beautiful, but there is not a soul in sight sometimes. It is very easy to be lost in my thoughts, wondering at the beauty of the place and letting my guard down. And since I cannot outrun anyone who takes the “trouble” to hike, hide and attack, and I cannot always find someone to run with me, the pepper spray it is! Accompanying me was my trusty iPhone, in case I needed to call for help. I texted my husband when I started the run, texted him again when I reached the other end of the trail, and then again when I was done. He did fret a bit because he didn’t realize that it would take way way longer to run those 2.5 miles than usual.
@JenPinarski tells me that she carries bear spray to use on unleashed dogs. After reading way too many horror stories, I think this is a GREAT idea.
Want to give trail running a shot and don’t know where to start? Check out Jesica’s post on the basics of Trail Running.