Getting Started with Trail Running

The off season is a great time to break out of your swim, bike, and run routine, and do some different activities. You may want to try new classes at the gym, focus more on your limiter (the sport where you have the most room to improve), go hiking or skiing etc. For me, the fall is a great time to switch gears and spend some time running on the trails. This past weekend I did a trail race, after not having done one since last December, and I was reminded how much I love running around in the woods. If you want to give trail running a try, here's a heads up on how trail running compares to road running.: 
  1. You Run Slower - The mix up terrain in the woods, and the ups and downs, the miles tend to be a couple minutes slower than on the road, and it may feel a little more challenging.
  2. You May Get Lost More - Which can actually be part of the fun! Not all the trails are well marked, so it's a good idea to bring a map, and definitely bring a sense of adventure.
  3. You May Fall Down More - Sometimes the roots and the rocks just reach up and grab your toe, and before you know you're sailing through the air; hopefully making a safe landing. Trail running requires a little more focus on the terrain that you're covering, looking out for roots, rocks and other things that might trip you up.
  4. There Could Be Bugs - Bringing bug & tick spray is a good idea. I also like to wear snug fitting sunglasses to keep out the little black bugs that like to fly into the eyeballs. (no matter how faster you run or more your head, you can shake those ninja like flies!)
  5. There Could Be Poison Ivy - A good reason to stay towards the middle of the trail, and maybe wear taller socks (also good for tick pertection).
Ok, now that you've read the above, I'm sure you can't wait to head out to the trails! So here are some tips on what gear you may want:
  1. Trail Shoes - You can do a couple trail runs on easy terrain in regular sneakers, to see if you enjoy trail running, but after that, I recommend investing in a good trail shoe. These shoes will have a grippier sole, with better traction, to keep you from slipping on leaves, or down rocks and roots. They may also have a lighter, water wicking fabric on top that dries more quickly than a standard running shoe. They may also be a little bit wider in the sole, to provide more stability. I love my Altra Lone Peaks, which also have velcro and hooks for ankle gaiters, which I'll discuss below.
  2. Ankle Gaiters - These are like a little sleeve that goes from your ankle, over the top of your trail shoe, to prevent dirt, rocks, and debris from getting in your shoe. There are many different kinds that you can get at stores like REI, but I like the DirtyGirlGaiters. You'd want to buy your shoes first, so you can make sure that the gaiters will work with your shoe, since some of the gaiters hook and velcro to the shoe.
  3. Head Lamp - Some of the trail races, especially the longer ones, will start or finish in the dark. The race registration site will typically warn you if you'll be running in the dark, and most require it, if they know you'll be running in the dark.
  4. Hydration Vest - These are a much more comfortable way to carry your hydration, food, phone, keys, etc, as opposed to a fuel belt. Again there are all different kinds. I found one I like from Sierra in Framingham, it's a women's specific vest fromUltimate Direction.
  5. AllTrails App - If you have service, which sometimes you don't in the woods, this is a very useful app. You can pull up lots of trail maps on the app, and see a blue dot tracking where you are on the trail. If I can't use this app, I bring a map, or take a photo of the map that they usually have at the entrance to the trail.
  6. Dress in Layers - It may be cooler in the woods, and If you're out there a while you could get a chill from sweating and then slowing down or stopping. Bring layers so you can put them on and off.
  7. Don't Go Alone - For safety, it's best not to go alone.
I hope this has inspired you to give trail running a try. If you have any questions, please send me an email. Long may you trail run!