Running without roads? To some, it may sound like heresy. But to the ever increasing number of trail runners, it’s all part of the plan. The allure of trail running, a sport that seems to have gained considerable popularity in the last few years, is in the setting; it’s an opportunity to get away from the traffic, noise, and commotion of everyday life. Another benefit is that trails may put less stress on the body than running on hard surfaces like pavement. This doesn’t mean, however, that trail running is all gravy. The natural terrain does require more of a quasi-meditative approach to exercise, since if you are not focused on and attentive to your surroundings, there is a decent chance of face planting after tripping over rock or root. It can also be competitive. A number of off-road ultramarathons (greater than 26.2 miles) sport some downright scary lengths: 31 miles, 55 miles , and 170 miles, to mention just a few. But even if you have no intention of running insane distances, you can still hit the trails. Here are a few pointers for your first dirt jaunt:
Start out slow and focus on your effort. Because you might be going up some pretty steep hills and winding switchbacks, your pace won’t be as consistent as on the road. Instead, focus on your effort level, even if you need to slow down or walk—you are adapting your running style to a totally different environment.
Watch out for obstacles. Unlike smooth pavement, there are all kinds of possible hazards on trails, including branches, mud, rocks, roots, and other things. Remember to focus on your running so you don’t get caught by surprise.
Know the course. Whether you’re in a race, or out by yourself, be aware of bathrooms and aid stations—and plan accordingly.
Source: Washington Post