Ask different runners and they will tell you their stories of how they got injured on a trail run or when sticking to a path. Even running roadside can result in injury if not done correctly, or when not listening to your body. However, there are more hazards on a trail that can be negotiated safely when you know how.
To help ensure this outdoor activity is one that can be enjoyed time and again, we have compiled a list of the ways to trail run safely. Whether you are an experienced trail runner, or just starting out, the following is sound advice for anyone.
What Is Trail Running?
Combining step gradients and running, trail running is a sport enjoyed on a frequently uneven surface. A mix of elevation and different terrains make it more of a challenge than a road run, and it takes certain training methods to condition the muscles so they can better cope with the demands.
So, Is Trail Running Dangerous?
Because of the conditions, it can be more dangerous than flat running so it is not something to undertake without some prior knowledge about how to do it safely.
So, How To Trail Run Safely
Any newcomer might find some of the parts of trail running too challenging to take on at a hurtling pace anyway. However, the temptation to tackle the downhills as fast as possible should be avoided at first. Use short, frequent strides that allow you to stay in control whilst negotiating soft ground and different hazards as they appear.
Walk The Hills If Necessary
When going flat out, it can cause you to tire fast. With a steep gradient, even walking can help to improve your fitness so trying to get uphill when it feels like you are running in sand. Also, running uphill is so much harder, it can impact your ability to get downhill as fast. This is often where you can make up some time so don’t spend all your energy shaving a few seconds getting uphill.
Keeps An Eye Out For What Is Ahead
Although you will need to keep your eyes on the ground immediately where you stand, try and take in some of the potential hazards and openings for an easier step several feet ahead.
It may be better to be able to work your way around certain obstacles that jump or step over them and this is best planned for a second or two in advance. If you do jump, give yourself plenty of clearance, anything that can cause you to trip or fall is best given the respect it deserves so don’t get lazy or complacent.
Stay Alert At All Times
The temptation to go through the motions towards the end of a trail run can be dangerous. Even when you’re tired, it is vital that you remain vigilant of the fast-approaching hazards. It’s common for form to go out the window at this point and with tired legs and joints, this is understandable.
One thing that cannot go is concentration. If the path is passing in a blur, snap yourself back into an alert state and finish strong.
Give Yourself Some Room
When running in a popular spot or as part of a race, another hazard to add to the pile is that of other runners. Because of this, it is important to give one another plenty of room.
Because trail running requires quick changes of speed from slow to fast and back and forth, it is better to be able to accommodate for a runner who has to slow suddenly in front. As a general rule, a lot of people like to keep around 10 ft between them and the person in front.
Learn The Basics
A lot of trail running comes down to some of the most basic advice such as staying light on your feet. When taking more steps is better, do it and lift those feet with plenty of clearance. Again, plenty of what comes with running a trail is instinctive, so make such the basics are drilled into your head.
Take Extra Supplies
Where a trail run might usually last an hour or so, an injury can happen at any time. The best way to prepare for this safely is to take extra food and water so if it does take you a long time to get back to base, nursing an injury, you have the fuel to do so.
Watch Out For Slippery Hazards
A fallen tree might look like a solid push off as you approach, but this is the sort of object that can be slippery and could lead to injury.
Also, the likes of rocks and roots can be surprisingly slippery, especially on a dewy morning. When it comes to rivers and streams, any shallows should be run through and not tiptoed over. Enjoy the muddiness and wet conditions that come with trail running, it’s not a run in the park after all.
Invest In Quality Equipment
You can’t expect to be able to negotiate even a beginner’s trail in your regular running shoes. Trail running equipment is safer and offers unique advantages that can help to keep you safe. The best trail running shoes are those that have shock-absorbing midsole, adequate grip, and plenty of protection.
Know The Route
Before setting off, know the main parts that make up the trail you are running. Also, take a copy, whether this is a map or a screenshot on your cell phone. This is also something to remember – a phone. Being able to call in an emergency is going to be a priceless advantage to getting help when it’s most needed.
Don’t Run Alone
Ok, we’re not saying that every time you plan a trail run it has to be with a partner, but it helps. Since the hazards are plentiful and new trails can be complex, it is always best to tackle them with someone else. That way, you can keep an eye out for one another, motivate, and enjoy the time together.
If you do decide to go solo, be sure to tell a friend where you are headed, and the time you expect to be back so you can be found if you take a fall.