Written by David Brady.
The summer is at its peak and now more than ever people are investing in their fitness and venturing out into the great outdoors. Perhaps you are one of the thousands of people every week taking a break from the concrete roads and sidewalks and venturing out to the forests, mountains and bogs to experience trail running in all its glory.
Whether you are an experienced runner or a complete beginner here are some tips and tricks that will help to make sure you have a fun and safe trail running experience.
Research & Plan Your Route
The idea of heading out into the wilderness and just seeing where your feet take you is a wonderful one. However, if you are new to trail running and you don’t have much experience in trail navigation, an unplanned approach will usually result in you getting lost.
If you are lucky, getting lost on the trails will just result in adding a few more unplanned kilometers onto your run. If you are unlucky and you become truly lost, you could find yourself getting a visit from the friendly mountain rescue team!
Save yourself the hassle by planning your route beforehand. An easy way to research and plan your route is to buy a map or use one of the many great apps out there such as All Trails or Gaia GPS. You might even download a GPX file to your GPS enabled watch to help guide you along the trail.
Safety is key when running on the trails. You should always let someone know what route you are taking, when you are starting out and when you expect to finish. I always share my route with a friend before I go trail running, I send them a text before I start running and arrange a check in time for when they should expect to hear from me.
There are many different schools of thought when gearing up for a trail run. Some runners take an extremely minimalist approach and bring only a reusable straw so that they can drink from rivers while others pack for all eventualities. Regardless of what group you eventually fit into, I would always recommend the following items as essential.
- Trail running shoes - they offer grip and weatherproofing which most road shoes just can’t deliver.
- Waterproof jacket - the weather can change rapidly on the trail, so you should always be prepared.
- Whistle - if the worst happens and you find yourself needing help, a whistle really can be a life saver.
- Torch - if you find yourself running into the night a torch will be essential for navigation.
- Water - hydration is key, typically bring 500ml of water for runs below 10km and 1 litre or more for anything over that
- Food - trail running is physically demanding and requires fuel so take along some carbohydrates (or whatever works for you)..
- Fully charged phone - if you get lost or just end up on the trail longer than expected, a fully charged phone is essential.
- Rubbish bag - whatever you take out onto the trail with you should also come home with you.
- Tissue - things can happen on the trails…. So be prepared.
Trek It In, Trek It Out
Everyone who runs on the trails is responsible for maintaining and protecting them. Amongst many other things this means that you should never leave any trash behind, items of clothing, equipment etc behind.
Effort Over Pace
This may seem obvious but whatever pace you are used to running on the flat roads or tracks will be much harder to achieve and maintain on the trails. You will experience very different terrain to what you are used to as well as demanding climbs and tricky descents. For that reason you should pay less attention to your pace and focus on your perceived level of effort.
You might even consider hiding the pace display on your watch so that you are not tempted to focus on it.
The Run/Power-Hike Strategy
For many runners the thought of slowing down to a hike pace for sections of their run is inconceivable, after all it’s called a run for a reason. However, if you find yourself facing a steep climb, switching between running and power hiking could be the difference between finishing the run and collapsing on the side of a hill.
Be Present In The Moment
Trail running is a fantastic way to take a break from the busy modern world and connect with nature. Enjoy the peace, breath in the fresh air and take in the amazing views.
Inspired to start trail running? Shop our latest running clothes and get out there!