You’re ready to get off the road, and you’ve had enough of fighting traffic, loose dogs and your knees are begging for some relief. Trail running will let you get the most out of your run and out of yourself. When you’re on the trail, you’re out in nature and in a place where motivation can be found everywhere you look.
Whether you’re looking for an everyday trail through a local neighborhood, one run by a local college, club or the National of State Forest Department, you’ll want to find a trail that fits your needs and you’ll need to know where to look. For many it’s as easy as following the signs of the interstate on the way home from work, for others it might take a little more digging.
Know What You’re Looking For: It sounds simple, a trail, through the woods and past grandma’s house. But it’s easy to become wrapped up in the idea of running on a trail and forget about some of the little things that might affect your run.
1. What time of the year are you running? Weather conditions will matter, so know how far out you’re willing to go. Even a great trail may prove to much if you’re facing a 45 minute drive back when soaking wet.
2. Will you need facilities? Many trails are right off the path, be they part of the National Forest or a College run an owned trail, many of your possible running locals will be accessible to some commodities such as bathrooms, campgrounds, or local services. But, keep in mind, no matter how close to civilization, a 45 minute ride after you carry yourself off a 5 mile trail with a dislocated knee could be a long ride. Therefore, you need to think about the dangers you could encounter on the trail, and how effectively you can deal with them before setting your heart on one trail.
3. Do You Know Your Limits? Similar to number 2 above, be sure to take stock of your own abilities and physical needs. Bad knees will want to avoid trails with lots of hills or elevation, or at least have a runner who is conscious of the need to walk down the other side. If you’re not a stable runner or trip, roll ankles or have balance issues, make sure to think about how well maintained the trail you’re looking at will be.
4. Do You Have the Time? Think about how long it will take you to get through your run and know that you will be going slower on a trail. Remember that while running at night is risky but manageable, running on a trail at night can be down right dangerous. You’ll also lose daylight faster under a canopy, so be time conscious when seeking out a trail, and match your choice to your schedule.
5. Do You Want to be Alone? Trail Running is solitary, and it’s one of the biggest joys of getting out on a trail, but think about the trail you are choosing and keep in mind that trails in the middle of large camping areas will likely mean slow moving hikers and kids. You may not see many of them, but if you do, think about how it will affect your overall experience.
Know Where To Look: If you’re new to trail running, it may seem difficult to find the right trail to run on. Maybe you want more than just a paved trail through a local neighborhood, or, maybe you need a route that connects with another area that is accessible, either way, you’ll find what your looking for if you take a little time.
1. Hit the Internet: It won’t matter whether you’re looking for state, national, or locally maintained trails a quick search through a search engine will provide you with many trails that are just waiting for you to head out. Here is a short list of some of the best:
2. Got Friends? Try to find other like minded runners, at gyms, message boards or even online forums. It’s not enough to just know where a trail is, you’ll want good information on it. Don’t be afraid to look for reviews and if a particular place doesn’t sound like it’s for you, don’t think yourself a wimp for not giving it a shot.
Trail running is a great experience, but it does take a little more planning to pull it off successfully. You’ll need more gear, different shoes, a good sense of direction and a whole lot of patience and fortitude. Trail running isn’t for the weak at heart, but it’s one of the best ways to break plateaus and find a new personal best in yourself.