Getting sick of your usual run around the neighborhood? Looking forward to your weekend hiking plans? Try switching it up and throwing on your running shoes as you head out for your weekend hike and try running the trail instead of just hiking. As a lifelong runner and nature-lover, I was recently introduced to trail running by my father and was instantly hooked.
Below are 3 reasons to throw on your running shoes and hit the trail running!
1. The Connection With Nature
There’s something magical about running along trails and listening to the animals, enjoying the vistas, and connecting with your surroundings. If you’ve been running with tunes for years, try leaving your earphones behind. Nature is a wonderful soundtrack and you’ll be amazed by how fast time flies. You’ll want to be fully engaged with your run since it’s an entirely sensory experience. Imagine transitioning from an exposed trail to a tree-covered trail; you notice the temperature drop and your sweat subsides, perhaps only temporarily until you’re met with the blaring sun as you exit the canopy. Later, after a serious elevation gain, you reach a peak and head downhill, giving your legs a chance to fly. Your mind is preoccupied with the beauty that surrounds you and you forget that you’re running. Your feet and body know what to do as they glide along the trail. You’ll finish your run reflecting on all of the beauty you just ran through.
2. An Escape From the Crowds
For much of the trail, it’s just you and your surroundings. Whether running a race or just out on a run, trail runners are used to running solo. If you’re already into solo hiking, you’ll definitely love trail running. Born a competitor and can’t imagine running without training for a race but sick of the large-scale road races? Entries to trail races are often capped at numbers that are drastically lower than road races. You’ll rarely find trail races with more than 100 runners. With so much distance and terrain to cover, everyone ends up spreading out. Instead of dodging people, you’ll be dodging rocks or other fun things.
3. The Camaraderie
Similar to the hiking world, the trail running world is made up of nature-loving athletes who appreciate the trail and love where the sport takes them. This camaraderie is particularly evident during races. Prepping for a trail race involves studying the map, including the turns and trail changes. Navigating the course is a forced camaraderie; no one wants to end up miles off course so you help each other out when it looks like someone has taken a wrong turn or isn’t sure where to go. At the end of the race you’ll rejoice with your comrades and celebrate the completion of a tough race. Without a doubt you’ll also be chatting about how beautiful the course was and which trail you’re going to explore the following weekend.
Intrigued by the concept but want to hear first hand accounts of what trail running really is? Peruse these books:
- “Born to Run” by Chris McDougall – An inspiring story about science, athleticism, and running
- “Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek – One man’s story of the importance of food as fuel and the creation of a champion
If you’ve got the competitive bug, start small and try a 5K or 10K trail race. Trail runners often become long distance warriors and those that have devoted their life to the trail are ultra runners, running 50 or more miles in a single day. Check out these websites for a list of short distance and long distance trail races.
Give it a try! If running the trail becomes too tough, you can always slow down and hike!