Now may be the time of year when, on your daily morning run around town, you stop and ask yourself, “Haven’t I seen enough of this course?” That’s a sign - it’s time to head out and get off the roads! Fall is a great time of the year to make your way to the local off-road trail for some fun in the forest. Here are a few tips as you get going on your trail running adventure:
Wear sturdy shoes or specific trail running shoes. Some light-footed & experienced folks may be able to get away with regular trainers, but most of us will find we need additional stability support & slick-proof protection when hopping over roots, rocks, and mud puddles. Don’t get hung up on the additional weight that comes with a trail running shoe – a broken ankle will slow you down much more.
Run to your ability. Experienced trail runners can handle moving along quickly because they have practice with maintaining their balance, dealing with uneven footing, shifting body weight, and other hazards you will encounter. If it’s your first time on the trail, slow down and enjoy yourself.
Keep your eyes on the trail. Looking away for even a moment could be the difference between a smoothly executed ballerina leap over a log, or a faceplant in the mud. Just because you’re talking to your running partner doesn’t mean you have to make constant eye-contact. This isn’t a business interview!
Don’t run alone. While the odds are low that someone or something will happen to you, it’s possible. Always try to run with a partner. Women in particular need to be careful when exercising in remote wooded locations, as does anyone with a history of health problems. There are plenty of running groups in all parts of the world, and virtually all will be happy to put you in touch with groups of like-minded athletes.
Know the course or run with someone who does. Have you ever found yourself two hours into a run, miles from your car, without food or water, wondering how to get back? Well, let me tell ya, it’s not a fun place to be! Memorize the trail markings that most parks use, or bring a map, compass, and supplies with you. Again, don’t overextend yourself – stick with simple, well-marked trails until your experience in navigation and terrain analysis gives you the confidence to tackle the big stuff.
Stop and enjoy the view! The great outdoors is a wonderful place to be, and many trails will lead you through some breathtaking scenery. As your coach, I give you permission to let your heart rate drop for a moment, and take in those wonderful sights. ;-)
Coach Marty Gaal - November 2006