Trail running

is a sport that gives you endless amounts of freedom. The feeling of stepping off the pavement and into the countryside is one like no other and everyone should try it at least once! Trail running is becoming more and more popular and we’ve outlined below why you should consider giving it a go.

Why Trail Running?

It offers something for every age and ability with a good variety of distances ranging from 4 miles up to Ultra Marathons. A global sport – great range of trails from the muddy trails of the Lake District to the dust path trails in Central Europe and beyond. Trail running can be as fun or as challenging as you want; places less demand on the joints than road running (and we all want to save our joints!)

Trail Running Equipment

  • A lightweight, and breathable shoe with a rugged outsole is a must for the trails. (insert link to trail shoes).
  • Waterproofs for the longer trails. (link to waterproofs).
  • A small Camelbak is needed for the majority of the European trail races. (link to Camelbak).
  • Clothing – it’s down to personal preference whether it’s short sleeve top, vest or long sleeve top, and shorts or leggings but a big must is that they are all technical materials to wick away moisture from the body to keep you dry and cool. Hats and gloves for the UK weather in winter. (link to clothing).

Training for a Trail Race

Everyone knows training is hard, but training for a trail race can also be fun. Trail runs offer a variety of different tasks and obstacles. These can range from flat fast running to steep uphills and exhilarating downhills (not quite to the extreme of the fells – don’t worry)! Training for this kind of running means you need to do lots of different training to keep it fresh and keep you interested, for example some smaller hill work, longer runs out in the hills for strength, road work to bring up your speed and gym work for general core which will help a lot when running around in the trails.

Becoming a better trail runner means taking your road technique and adjusting it for the uneven terrain that you will come across. Like most of our running, trail running is a challenge to overcome, and you’ll be working a lot more muscles given the potentially slippery surface.

It comes down to 3 unique challenges when running off road:

  1. Running uphill
  2. Running downhill
  3. Using your arms to control your movement.

Running Uphill with Much Smaller Steps

Running uphill is the lung-busting part of trail running – it’s the bit that runners have most trouble adjusting to. Large steps are hard to maintain when you’re running up especially when with every step you go backwards. You’re also using the forefoot much more to push off and therefore your body has to adapt more.

This combination of forces means you should:

  • Shorten your stride
  • Lift your knees higher
  • Shift your weight to the balls of your feet
  • Move your legs from the hip

Keep your Downhill Running Under Control

You can quickly lose control of your speed going downhill. Think of a sledge that has been pushed from the top of the slippery slope. Without direction and effort, you can soon move out of line. Feet in this instance come into play and the same occurs when running downhill. The pull of gravity can cause you to hurtle down hills with a stride that is too long.

By overextending your leg, you put yourself at risk of injury. What you need to do is:

  • Keep your feet under your body
  • Maintain an upright posture
  • Raise your feet from the ground as little as possible

Use your Arms to Propel you Forward

In trail running, your arms are crucial to your overall running rhythm. And they’re essential to how efficient you run.  Don’t be worried about looking like you are swatting out at unseen foes around your waist or shoulders.

When you’re going uphill, you should swing your arms in short, sharp movements. Then your leg movement should follow with a short, fast stride. When you’re going downhill, use your arms to control your momentum and keep control. That helps you to keep your balance, regulate your movement and quickly change direction.

Don’t be worried about falling over and getting a bit muddy.  That is part of the fun.  Trail running is all about getting back to and enjoying nature.  If you fall, see it as you connecting more with nature.  Most of all enjoy it.