So I promised this article a while back and waited all this time in order to build months and months of anticipation! (Alright I’ll be honest, it took this long due to extreme lazyassness). Here’s a link to my first “Advice for Trail Running Newbies” article. If you haven’t attempted the almighty trail run yet, then I would seriously recommendfinding a trail close to you, lacing up the running shoes, and start pounding.
To those newbies starting off, here’s some advice (unwarranted or otherwise):
BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS
This sort of goes along with my recommendation to “Take Out Your Headphones“, but today let’s get into more specifics.
Depending on the trail you are running, you are going to be dealing with a variety of obstacles.
There are basic obstacles like jagged rocks, tree roots, and stream crossings and also bigger challenges like steep hills, fallen trees, animals, mountain bikers, and other runners. If you are zoned out you will not survive….DUN DUN DUN (scary music)….okay that is probably a bit of an exaggeration but you get my point. Unless you are completely aware during the trail run, you could seriously get hurt. Many times has my mind wandered from the trail for a few heartbeats and I’ve found myself on the ground or worse.
“Why you should be aware” a trail runners public safety announcement :
- Three weeks ago I went out to my local trail system (Angler’s Park) and began the jog up the single track trail. Within ten seconds of starting I came upon a section of trail covered by grass. As my foot landed next to the grass I noticed a big Copperhead snake coiled resting in it. Instinctively, I threw my body backwards making some weird guttural noise getting myself as far away from the snake as possible. If I had been zoned out, I could have easily stepped on this poisonous beast and today I would be writing “What to do if a Snake Bites You” instead of this article.
(SIDE NOTE: I decided to continue running on that trail and over the next hour the hundreds of tree roots I saw all looked like snakes)
Run smart and be aware. Trail running allows you to work on your mind-body awareness. As you go, intently watch the trail, see the rocks and roots, and think through where you want your feet to land.
As you improve with this awareness you will notice the amount of stumbles and face-plants decreasing. This focus is also great at easing your mind from the stress of the day. It is my favorite form of meditation.
BUY SHOES THAT FIT YOUR TRAIL
For the longest time I ran an extremely rocky trail with minimalist shoes. I had a bias towards this pair because they were super light and kicked butt on the road and dirt trails.
This bias almost caused me to drop out of a race. During the weeks leading up to my first 50k my feet took a major pounding on the jagged rocks. My right foot developed a giant swollen bruise on the bottom and even the tiniest rock would send pain shooting up my leg.
Apparently I’m a slow learner because it took about three weeks of this idiocy to realize that these shoes were not going to cut it. My local running store suggested legit trail running shoes with a rock plate sole to protect my foot.
Other things to consider when choosing a shoe:
- Is the trail muddy, sandy, rocky?
- Will I need a good grip?
- Am I mostly running on flat sections or hills?
- Will I use these shoes to in mud, snow, or ice?
Instead of ordering a shoe online, I would highly advise you to try out shoes in a local running store. Here you will find knowledgeable employees who can help you pick out the correct pair of shoes for wherever you decide to run.
I will be back soon for Part 3 (sooner rather than later…hopefully). Due yourself a favor this week and challenge yourself to find somewhere new to run (preferably through the woods or up some killer mountain pass, but a new road route works too)! And if you’ve fallen off or have never been aboard the runner wagon…jump on!