There is a certain romanticism attached when i try to describe or read the pleasures of trail running. I always get to absorb the high and tranquility of the trails for fresh air leaving behind the chaos and pollution of urban running behind.
To quietly reflect on the beauty of the natural world is a given to those who take their time exploring the trails but for others, it serves as another challenge as we keep our hearts pumping when we join a trail race, no different from the usual grind of a road race.
I’ve been running trails for the past 3 years and the joys of experiencing the change of scenery and the excitement of racing on these parts add to the over-all enjoyment of running. If you’re new to the sport and would like to experience the exhilaration of running in this new environs, there are certainly many ways to enjoy it and it’s best to be prepared to know the ins and outs of trail running.
Last Wednesday, i attended Salomon’s Trail Running 101 lecture at ROX at Bonifacio High Street, conducted by Coach and multi-sport athlete, Miguel “Ige” Lopez and the Philippine Sky Runners. This was a great refresher course for me and whatever romanticism trail running stamped on my consciousness was replaced by wit and humor as Ige Lopez discussed his travails, victorious conquests and funny anecdotes from his trail running experiences.
This refresher is in conjunction with the upcoming Salomon Trail race happening on the 31st which he endorses as he gave pointers on the basics: what gears to wear, running form, hydration, techniques, trail etiquette and stories of his racing experiences, locally and abroad.
Trails come in different shapes and sizes, that’s the beauty of trail running — every trail is different so its important to learn some basics like trail running form and how to work trails into your normal running regiment.
Here are some tips on the basics of trail running:
What to ExpectWhen You Hit the Trail for an Off-Road Race
By: Martin Dugard
As you might think, a trail race can be quite different from a road race, both tactically and physically. Some words of wisdom regarding race day:
First of all, wear those trail shoes. They’re light enough for racing, but offer the lateral support you need to keep your feet and ankles more stable. Also, a trail shoe has a heavier tread pattern than a road shoe, and offers a toe “bumper” to protect you from bruising.
Start slowly. In essence, a trail race is a whole bunch of people trying to squeeze onto a skinny trail. Which may make you want to start out fast to beat the crowds. Don’t. This will only send you into oxygen debt and sap the energy you’ll need later in the race when everyone else is tiring.
Stay loose. As the race progresses, you’ll find a rhythm. Imagine yourself as nimble and light-footed as Fred Astaire. In this relaxed state, you’ll be less likely to fall and more apt to maintain speed.
Above all, have fun. Trail racing is the most natural form of racing. Indeed, we feel like children as we run through the forest. It’s playtime, and we’re called to it.
Trail Techniques and Tactics
Whether you are training or racing on trails, think about staying light on your feet. Run as if on eggshells. Also, resist the tendency to favor one leg over the other. A lot of runners start using one leg as the “plant” leg to land heavily on and the other as the “drive” or “push-off” leg. Each leg should do these actions interchangeably. Some other tactics to remember:
Downhills: Run on the balls of your feet, not on your heels. This means less pounding, more speed and greater control.
Uphills: Shorten your stride, and keep your head up and chest forward. Run relaxed and try to find a rhythm that will take you up and over each hill with relative ease.
Corners: To a greater extent than on the roads, trails offer the chance to round a corner and “hide.” Practice bursts of speed when turning corners. Competitors won’t see you accelerate, and will experience a mental letdown when they see you’ve “gapped” them. Include this maneuver as a regular part of your fartlek workout.
Streams: It’s possible to cross a stream while barely wetting your feet. All you have to do is high-step across as quickly as possible, allowing your feet to touch down only for a fraction of a second. Try it. And don’t be afraid to run right through a stream. Too many competitors lose time by halting at the edge of a stream midrace.
7 Steps to Your First Trail Run
By: Matthew Frazier
1. Find a trail. By far the best way to start trail running is to find a local group of trail junkies and run with them. They’ll know the best trails in your area and help you get started. Be sure to distinguish between non-technical and technical trails. Non-technical trails are paved, gravel, or dirt roads that are generally easy to negotiate. Technical trails are narrow, dirt or rocky paths offering every variety of challenge that most people associate with trail running.
2. Slow down and take short, quick strides. You can expect to run about 20 percent slower on trails for a given level of exertion than you would on roads. You’ll find steeper hills, more side-to-side movement, and lots of obstacles to deal with. Trail running is most fun when you forget about pace and do what feels good. Shorten your stride so that your weight is over your feet most of the time; this allows you to react quickly and maintain balance. You’ll find that trail running works your core and stabilizer muscles more than road running, so it may help to focus on keeping your core engaged.
3. Don’t be afraid to walk the hills. The surest way to identify a road runner on the trails is to look for the guy who runs past everybody on the uphills, only to be passed again on the downhills. Trail runners know that it’s usually more efficient to walk up the steep hills and conserve energy to make up time on the way down.
4. Scan the ground five to ten feet in front of you as you run. When you’re running trails, you need to pay extra attention to where you step. But you certainly don’t want to be staring straight down at your feet the whole time. Continuously scan the ground a few yards ahead of you while you’re running. As you notice an approaching obstacle, shift your attention to your feet to do whatever is necessary to clear the obstacle. And don’t be lazy—pick up your feet just a little higher than you think is necessary to avoid a root or rock. Too many falls happen due to simple complacency.
5. Keep a distance of ten feet from other runners. If you’re going to pay attention the ground in front of you, it helps if you can actually see it. If that’s not enough reason to keep your distance, trail runners are required to change speeds all the time, rarely with warning. Nobody likes getting rear-ended.
6. Watch out for slippery roots and rocks. If you can step over a fallen tree, root, or large rock, rather than on it, do it. Lots of them are more slippery than they look. And when crossing streams, it’s often safer to walk directly through the water than to try to tiptoe across wet rocks. (You’ll avoid being called names, too.) It’s trail running; you’re supposed to get muddy and wet!
7. Be safe. It’s not called “the wild” for nothing. You know, the common-sense stuff. Whenever possible, run with a friend. Bring a map if you’re running a new trail for the first time. Have a first aid kit in the car, and carry extra food with you for emergencies. Bring along a cell phone if you’re running alone. And know the area you’re running—how to deal with the wildlife, when and where hunting takes place, when the sun goes down, and anything else that might pose a danger.