Every so often, even the most dedicated runner gets bored of their daily routine. You can always vary where you run, but for most city dwellers the day-to-day options are pretty limited. One street looks much like another, and after a while every grassy park starts to look the same. It can be hard to find the motivation to get out there and give it your best.
Trail running is a great way to spice up your regular fitness regime. Unless you’re very lucky and live somewhere really beautiful you’ll probably have to go out of your way to find a good off-road running trail, but there are plenty of them out there. Running in the hills, along coastal clifftops, through the woods makes it easier to go further and faster- the desire to see what’s around the next corner will provide all the motivation you need.
It’s also a great way to relax. Choose your trail carefully and there will be no crowds to weave through, no waiting to cross the road, no traffic pumping out air pollution, and no noise but the sound of the wind and your own two feet.
Before you head for the nearest state or national park, there are a couple of things for road runners to be aware of. The first is footwear. Unless you’re going to stay on a well-laid, flat, dry path, your normal running shoes may not provide enough grip. Almost all trail running involves uneven surfaces, grass, mud, and gravel. Start out on a relatively flat trail and if you get to like off-road running, think seriously about getting a pair of dedicated trail running shoes. They’ll have deeper lugs for grip on grass and mud and will do a better job at preventing turned ankles.
The second thing to remember is that there are sometimes few easy exit points from a trail run. Take care not to overestimate your reach and go too far your first time out- there is a world of difference between what any runner can handle on a flat road and what they can comfortably cope with on a steep off-road track. Again, starting out easy and working your way up is the best strategy.
Any time you go trail running or hiking, let someone reliable know where you’re going and what time you expect to get back. Accidents can happen to anyone, whether they’re running down a city street or along part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Take a mobile phone and a water bottle if it’s hot.
It does take a little extra effort to run off-road, but the rewards are worth it. Trail running is becoming increasingly popular all around the world, as more athletes leave the roads and start enjoying the hills instead. Some compete in multi-day mountain marathons, others just use an occasional afternoon on a trail to remind them how enjoyable running can be.