Last week, we discussed all things UTMB and elite trail running. But you don’t need to be Killian Jornet or Tom Evans to head to trails. Here is how you can start.
Just go off-road
No one needs the Alps to start in trail running. While you might be running on the pavement around home, or lapping a track, trails might be closer than you think. Instead of running on a path in the park, go run in a field, on the beach or find a track. You’ll find tools like Strava Routes and All Trails to help you find the most-traveled trails. You can also go old school and get information from the local tourist information center.
Even busy cities hide the most beautiful trails. For example, in London, you can easily get to Hampstead Heath or Richmond Park, which both will provide great trails. You might even spot Richmond deers on the run!
Sign up for a race
Trail races are accessible for most, and it is worth looking at one around you. Again, trails don’t have to be 100km or 100mile-long. You’ll easily find 10k-20k races – for example, Maverick races offer great race experiences for beginners and keen trail runners. If you’re not sure you want to commit to one just yet, browse Parkruns! Many of them are for road runners but there is also a handful of them where you will run off-road.
Don’t miss out on your S&C
The good news is, trail running is known to be easier on your joints. Since you are not running on hard concrete, soft grounds will lessen the impact of your body on the floor. However, you might find on trails more ‘obstacles’ like tree roots, uneven surfaces, bogs, and elevation might quickly add up. Technical terrain usually requires more balance, and flexibility – no one likes an ankle sprain on the first outing while elevation will engage lower body and core muscles differently than usual road running.
A good S&C plan will help you to hit the trails safely and make sure you can enjoy the scenery as much and as long as possible.
Make sure you stay safe
Some urban trails are quite safe, but if you think about venturing into National Parks or into the mountains, make sure to plan on the safe side. With trail running, you might be going outside civilisation, which means it could be more difficult to reach emergency services if you fall or if you don’t feel well. As a rule of thumb, make sure to get to the trail with your mobile phone, some water, and a snack as well as an extra layer. If you’re going on your own, it might be helpful to send a quick message to your friend/family member with your route so that they can assist if needed.
Naturally, this will depend on the distance, the location, the time, and your experience on the trails. But if for example, you’re thinking about hiking up Ben Nevis or Snowdon and running down, you might be out for a longer time. As nature is often unpredictable (especially in the mountains), it is always more helpful to be on the safe side.
Take it easy
One of the biggest myths in trail running lies in the fact that runners actually run and even race the whole course. False! Even elite ultra runners don’t – even when they are racing during UTMB or competitive races like Western States 100. Most trail runners power hike when elevation goes up and run down mountains and hills. While it might seem like you’re losing time, this might save your quads for a fast and furious descent, and your cardio from being out of breath and exhausted at the first hill.
Of course, if you still feel like road running is more for you, try out parkruns, and sign up for a 10k, half marathon, and marathon. You do you when it comes to running!