Tricks of the Trail
There are three important differences between road running and trails.
Footing: Running on paths filled with dirt, rocks and branches takes a little getting used to. You’ll need to get comfortable with some fancy footwork—and strengthen those stabilizer muscles as well.
Topography: Typically, trails are hillier than roads. You don’t see many trail races boasting a “flat and fast” course—so getting used to running up and down inclines is a must.
Intensity: Most runners discover that their pace is far more erratic in a trail race. The typical trail race has slow sections (ascents, sharp turns, loose dirt) and fast sections (descents, straightaways, packed dirt). You can’t just lock into your goal pace and cruise the way you do on the roads.
What runner girl doesn’t like to buy new shoes—but do you really need ’em?
It depends on the trail. Regular running shoes are perfectly suitable for use on most trails. But if you venture onto rocky, slippery or uneven trails, you’ll be better off in a trail-specific kick.
Trail shoes are typically lower to the ground and made with denser midsole materials for better stability. They’ve also got deeper tread for superior traction on wet ground. Additionally, most trail shoes offer better protection against rocks and roots. On top of all that, trail running shoes usually come in colors that hide dirt better!
Avoid newbie mistakes on race morning with these tried-and-true trail tips.
Get out fast.
Bottlenecking is a common frustration in races that include sections of narrow trails. It becomes almost impossible to pass other runners in these areas. Avoid the problem by starting the race a little faster than normal so you don’t get stuck behind slower runners. Don’t start too fast though, or you’ll be the one slowing others down!
Choose your line.
In trail races, you don’t necessarily want to run the shortest possible distance—you want to run the smoothest possible path. To do this, focus your eyes on the ground about 10 feet in front of you so know where your foot is going to land three steps before you get there.
Forget about the clock.
Trail races are often so varied in their terrain that regulating effort by pace is impossible. Instead, focus on your internal sense of effort and try to run the most efficient race possible by feel.