As racing performance and frequency curtail somewhat with the onset of the summer heat, running trails is a great way to put some fun back into your off-season runs.
Trail running requires a different kind of mental focus than running on roads, and you'll need to pack a bit differently than for a regular long run. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your day in the woods. If you're just starting out exploring this type of running, choose milder inclines or flat trails, and favor well-worn paths.
The Web is a great resource for finding nearly every type of trail near you, and the information tends to be more up-to-date than many books. Check www.trailrunner.com and www.trailrunningusa.com for detailed information about slope, weather, distance and navigating by car or even public transportation to trailheads.
- Always let someone know the trail you will be taking before you head out for your run. It's best to run with a companion if possible.
- Remember that it's okay to stop and take in the scenery. Part of what makes these runs special are the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors. Your run need not incorporate strictly scheduled, hardcore training, though it certainly can offer that as well.
- When crossing streams, deep water will appear smooth. Ripples mean rocks, so you'll probably want to cross there, but watch your footing and always face upstream.
- When you get to a crossroads, turn around. Take a mental snapshot of what the intersection will look like on your way back.
What to Wear
- Trail running shoes may be worth a look. They usually offer a toe bumper and superior traction. Just remember that, unless the trail is entirely flat, you'll be running downhill much of the time. You'll want extra room up front to keep your toes from cramming against the tip of the shoe.
- The rest of your gear is no different from road clothing. Any moisture-wicking running clothes will suit you well on trails. As with any run, if rain is an issue, pack a light water-resistant jacket. The most important thing you can do is layer. As you move in and out of the sun, you'll be surprised at the changes in temperature. In summer, generally favor light-colored, loose clothing. If encounters with hunters might be an issue, avoid earth tones.
What to Carry
- A small fanny pack is the best way to store all you'll need with you. Some even come equipped with a water bottle holder.
- Alternately, a hand-held bottle holder with a velcro strap makes for an easy way to carry fluids. There are many excellent hydration packs on the market, too, which will free your hands and distribute water weight more evenly across your back. These are useful for harder runs when you want to take a sip without stopping.