My friend Caitlin, who wrote this, has a heart of gold. She works hard so other people can join in on the sorts of adventures she enjoys so much herself. I’m not nearly as generous. I myself can not understand why you would run on pavement if you could run on dirt, why you would run in traffic, if you could run in trees. Caitlin understands that people have fear, doubt and insecurity about these things. She’s empathic like that.
SO YOU’RE CONSIDERING TRAIL RUNNING
WHY RUN ON TRAILS?
Is your house/life/brain usually noisy and overwhelming? Running on trails can give you some of the peace and quiet you’ve been missing.
BUT I’M NOT EVEN A “NATURE PERSON”
You don’t need to be a nature lover to like trail running. Do your house plants make you happy? Imagine what a forest of ferns would feel like! You may find yourself noticing more nature wherever you go.
ISN’T IT TIRING ALWAYS LOOKING AT THE GROUND, AVOIDING TRIPPING HAZARDS?
It is true that there are more obstacles on trails than on roads (we happen to live in a rocky and rooty part of the world), but running on trails can be quite meditative, as opposed to tiring. Your inner jumble of thoughts quiets down as you pay attention to your surroundings. If you’re just starting out, you can run on packed-dirt trails that have fewer tripping hazards, and then work your way up to the bumpy stuff. Or not!
WILL I BREAK MY ANKLE ON A ROOT?
As a person with weak ankles that used to roll when walking down the street, I can tell you that running on uneven terrain has actually made my ankles much stronger. All the micro-adjustments that your ligaments have to do to keep you upright end up being helpful! But yes. There’s a chance you’ll trip.
BUT I LIKE RUNNING FAST AT ALL TIMES. IS THIS POSSIBLE ON TRAILS?
There are certainly people who run fast on trails, although you will need to recalibrate your brain a little to accept that your pace on trails will always be slower than on roads. That being said, while I enjoy pushing my speed on roads and track, speed is not at all my objective on trails. In fact, you might say I’m downright slow on trails. I enjoy not even looking at my pace, and just enjoying the journey. A good portion of my runs on hilly trails end up being a lot of hiking.
WHAT IF I’M AFRAID OF THE WOODS?
Wild animals, other people’s mean dogs, suburban property owners. These are all valid things to be a little leery of. While I can’t promise you’ll never see a wild animal (although I’ve never seen a scary one), an off-leash dog or an angry Karen wondering what you’re doing in the woods, I can promise you that it’s much less scary if you go with one of your friends who is used to this setting. Your trail running friends will be glad to stick to the front and handle these interactions for you.
DO I NEED SPECIAL SHOES?
If you’re just starting out, there’s no need to rush out and buy new shoes. Any pair of running shoes with decent treads will be just fine. Warning, THEY WILL GET DIRTY, so stick with dark colors. If you decide to do more trail running, it might be worth getting some trail shoes, as they offer more grip on rough surfaces.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING WITH ME?
If you’ll be on a run of an hour or more, you may want to bring water with you in either a handheld bottle or a hydration pack. Snacks are also good. Running on trails is tiring in a whole-body way that’s different from road running, so you’ll want to provide yourself with enough fuel.
WHAT IF I HAVE TO PEE?
Run on trails enough and you will eventually end up peeing in the woods. There’s no other way to break it to you.
Happy Running – Caitlin