There are generally two camps of runners: those who prefer to run on roads, and those who prefer the trails. Whether you know which camp you are in, or not, spending time on the trails is a great way to break up a boring routine or simply see somewhere new. Trail running beginners should follow the tips below.
Plan to be gone
longer than expected
Running on trails takes more time than running on the roads. The softer surface, uneven terrain, hills, and sometimes unexpected occurrences (such as a connecting trail being closed) can slow down even the best runners.
Run with a buddy
Heading out to the trails for the first time should not be done alone. Although trail running is not inherently dangerous, having a buddy is always recommended in case of injury. Unlike on the roads, a bad fall or sprain could leave a trail runner alone for hours before anyone can notice.
Bring a water bottle
Many trail systems do not have water fountains. If planning to run for more than 10k, consider packing a handheld hydration system to ward off dehydration.
Wear bug spray
Nothing ruins a great trail run like running from bugs. Don’t forget to spray yourself with bug spray after getting out of the car in order to keep the pesky insects at bay.
Cover your head
During tick season, wear a hat or bandana to keep ticks out of your hair. After your run, inspect areas of your body that ticks may have latched onto, such as behind the ears or around your ankles.
Respect the trail
Never try to forge your own trail or take souvenirs from your run. If a specific trail is closed, do not go beyond barriers to use the trail anyway. Use proper etiquette when on the trail, and always say hello when passing another runner or hiker, as well as alert anyone you may be passing from behind.
Keep your head up
It can be tempting to look around at the beautiful scenery during your run, ignoring the hazards of the trail. Keep your eyes ahead to watch out for tree roots or low hanging branches. Allow yourself to stop every 2-3k to take in the wonders of nature safely.
Stick to out-and-back
When first testing out trail running, stick to running out and back courses (i.e. 20 minutes out, and then turn around and run back the way you came) to keep from getting lost. Bear in mind that trail maps may not always be accurate, and getting lost happens even to the most experienced of runners. Start to explore only after you are confident in your surroundings.
Use Caution around
At some point, you will encounter a wild animal while trail running. Do not be alarmed (remember, most are more afraid of you than you are of them). Slow to a walk and keep your distance. Do not attempt to run past a large animal, as this can be starting and potentially lead to a chase.