It’s no secret to most of you that I have fallen in love with trail running. I have been running (roads) for 12+ years now and really have had no interest or desire to attempt trail running. I’ve always enjoyed walking and hiking in the woods, but the idea of running just sounded like a terrible idea ….you know, twisted ankles, banged up knees and elbows or even worse, a broken bone. So how does one get from fear of trails to love of trails? Well, it’s quite simple my dear running friends …you just take a deep breath, step outside of your comfort zone, lace up your running shoes (be sure to double knot them) and hit the trails. Just like anything else in life, running trails are not for everyone …but how would you know unless you give it a try?
5 Reasons to Fall in Love with Trail Running:
1. For the Love of Nature
Most runners love the great outdoors and would rather run in the rain than to have to crank out their miles on a treadmill. They love to feel the wind in their face and even better when it’s at their back! They enjoy running in parks, alongside rivers and lakes. Imagine all the things you love about running outside, multiply that times ten and that is what you get with trail running. It is literally an assault on the senses. You don’t just see trees nearby, you are running among them. You can reach out and touch them as the trail twists and turns all around them. The sounds of birds chirping, owls hooting and squirrels chattering are all around you and occasionally you may even hear a tree fall in the distance. The smell of fresh pine trees, dirt and mud only adds to the experience and helps to cover the smell of sweat permeating from your body. It truly it the most peaceful of running experiences.
2. For the Love and Fear of all Creatures …Big and Small
Sure, one can see creatures while road running, but your chances are much greater on the trails. There is just something so satisfying about seeing a couple of deer grazing nearby then disappearing into the brush as quickly as you spotted them or catching a glimpse of a sly red fox lurking in the distance and cute little bunny rabbits hopping through the woods. Of course, there are frightening creatures as well ….snakes, spiders, swarms of yellow jackets, but trust me when I say, this only adds to the excitement of trail running!
3. For the Love of Slower Paces and Walk Breaks
It’s a fact of trail running ….your pace will be slower than normal. Yes, there will always be faster trail runners than you, but I guarantee that even their fast trail running pace is slower than their road running pace. So, if you are like me and have found your pace slowing down to a snail’s pace as you’ve reached the golden years, you will be in good company out on the trails. There are plenty of fellow snail paced runners out there (as well as actual snails) who could care less about speed, pace, finish times, PR’s or even if their Garmin marks their miles accurately. They are usually more interested in when and where the next hill is so they can take a walk break. Yes, it’s true. I know it’s hard for most road runners to comprehend since most of us, if we’re honest, see walk breaks as a weakness. Trail runners embrace them and use them as a means to an end ….they are what allows them to complete 50k’s, 50 and even 100 mile races. One fellow ultra runner told me that, in his opinion, once you have reached the point of exhaustion, it actually takes more discipline, determination and mental strength to get your body to start running again after a walk break than it does to run without stopping. And we all know that long distance running is more about mental strength than physical.
4. For the Love of Strong Legs, Feet and Core
Honestly, I have been in complete shock at how much stronger my ankles and feet have become since I started trail running. While there are many benefits to running on all different types of trails, I am mostly referring to technical and single track trails as opposed to the wider, hard packed gravel trails. Your core muscles, glutes, quads, hamstrings, ankles and even the tiniest of tendons in your feet are all 100% engaged when you are running with side to side steps, dodging tree roots and holes, hopping over creeks and fallen trees and trying to stay upright while running through mud. You will work muscles and tendons you never knew existed and they will get strong and hopefully prevent future running related injuries ….hopefully.
5. For the Love of Beer and all things Sweet and Salty
Well duh! Don’t all runners enjoy a nice cold one after a long hot run? However, I must say that I have been amused at how much of the conversation while out on the trails has been about beer and several runners even bring a cooler filled with their favorites (always enough to share) for post-run refueling. In addition, the snacks brought to the picnic table every Saturday morning where we gather have been surprising to this GU eating road runner. Everything from chips, cookies, angel food cake, caramel flavored pretzels and boiled peanuts to the healthier, grapes and orange sections. I must confess that I am beginning to ‘drink the kool-aid’ so to speak. Last weeks ice-cold coca-cola and boiled peanuts really hit the spot after a hot and humid 11 miles!
Bonus: For the Love of Calories Burned
I honestly do not know how this can be proved scientifically, but according to everything I’ve read, trail running burns more calories per mile than road running even at a slower pace and taking walk breaks. That’s a win, win in my book …extra calories burned means more wine calories! Priorities people, priorities.
So, have I convinced you to trade in your racing flats for a pair of trail shoes? Or at least piqued your curiosity? Any trail runners out there care to share what they love about the trails?
Finding “Fabulous” at Fifty, one trail run at a time!