As I’ve started this new running journey I have taken to the trails around Fort Collins. I like the peacefulness of the trails and enjoy the added challenge of running on rocky uneven ground while going up an incline. It’s hard, I kind of suck at it right now, and it’s glorious. Trail running also makes me feel like a badass.
But I’ve learned a few things along the way. Things that others don’t seem to talk about when they post tips for trail running or write up their experience with trail running.
Obviously I’m not a pro, I’m just a beginner trail runner but these are the things that I’ve learned during my experience so far.
Get trail running shoes
This seems like a no brainer but you’d be surprised how many people don’t and then end up with a twisted ankle. My shoes pictured above are not trail runners so don’t get those. You need shoes with more stability and more cushion between your feet and the trail. In those shoes pictured I can feel every rock and it’s not fun. Plus they aren’t as stable as a trail runner would be.
Trails are uneven and rocky, some of the rocks might move on you as you run. You’ll need stable shoes to handle the terrain and give you support. Plus trail runners will have much better traction. I’m currently in the market for some good trail runners. Once I get some, I’ll share that experience as well.
Don’t tie your shoes too tight
You don’t want your shoes so loose that your feet are sliding around, that isn’t going to do you any good. But tying them too tight means your foot won’t have the flexiblity to move around. Remember you will be running over rocks and sometimes going up an incline. Your feet need to be able to have full range of motion to be able to handle the terrain. Tie your shoes too tight and you risk having your shins and calves cramp up as you run.
Also, make sure to pick up your feet!
With road running, we can get by with shuffling our feet as we run. That kind of running on the trail will set you up for a tumble.
With trail running you really can’t shamble along because the trail is so uneven. You have to make sure to pick up your feet so you don’t trip over a rock or something else. The minute you stop picking up your feet, you’ll stumble. Trust me, I’ve done it plenty of times! Thankfully I haven’t taken a header on the trail. That would be no fun!
Trail running is dirty business
Trails can be muddy but most often they are going to be dusty. And trail dust gets EVERYWHERE. It gets in your clothes, all through your shoes, and if it’s a breezy day, expect it all over you.
You’ll discover that you have specific socks just for trail running. They will be easy to spot because they’re the ones completely stained with trail dust. Trail dust does wash out but only so much. It leaves skidmarks on your socks. Once you take to the trails is when your trail sock collection begins.
You will encounter wildlife on the trails
Depending on where you live, this could be as benign as seeing deer while running, or it could be as serious as seeing rattlesnakes or bobcats on the trail. Pay attention to your surroundings! This is also why I am completely against listening to music or a podcast while running or hiking. Even if you leave one earbud out, you still aren’t going to be fully aware of your surroundings and won’t hear a rattlesnake if you happen upon one. Getting people to quit music while running is harder than getting people to quit sugar. But trust me, leave the music behind and just hit the trails and enjoy your surroundings.
Even if it’s not that sunny out, you will still be dealing with bugs and trail dust. Especially if it’s breezy you want to make sure that your eyes are covered so no dust or small rocks get in your eye. Speaking of bugs….
You will eat a bug
It happens, you’re breathing hard and then all of the sudden, UGH, down went a bug. Don’t sweat it, take a drink of water and keep going.
Always take water with you
Unless you’re only running a short distance and by short, I mean like a mile, then you’ll need water. It’s a trail so it’s going to be a little more challenging than just running around the block. Trail dust (see, it is everywhere) can get in your mouth and throat. Plus if you’re going up in elevation, you’re going to be exerting yourself more and will require more water.
Stopping to walk is OK
Some parts might be too rocky and unstable to fully run on. Some parts might be a little too challenging at the moment to run. Some parts the incline might be a little too steep. Stop and walk it out. No shame in taking a small walk. Better to walk until you have more stable footing than risk an injury or a fall.
If you’re thinking about hitting the local trails for running or if you’re just starting out, these are just a few things to keep in mind. The main focus is your safety. Always keep that in mind as you head out for your trail run and you’ll have a successful run!
Are you a trail runner? Any lessons you’d like to share?