There’s a big difference between running the pavement and running a trail. The principles that you apply to cover seven street miles pretty much go out the window when you’re on a trail with mud, hills, tree roots and a narrow winding path. A trail race is an obstacle course and it can get tricky. But if you pay attention to your surroundings it can be enjoyable and rewarding.
I did a trail run last weekend and had a specific goal in mind: not to fall down. I took a pretty bad fall on the trail race I did in September and have been nursing an aching shoulder since. A couple of the runners had battle scars after the run on Saturday. One fall occurred on the trail just ahead of me when a runner got her toe caught in a covered tree root and literally went head over heels down a steep incline. Not pretty.
If you’re an inexperienced trail runner or thinking about signing up for your first trail race, here are 10 tips to help you get to the finish line injury free.
1. Pick Up Your Feet – The ole street shuffle doesn’t work when you’re dodging, sticks, roots, holes and mud puddles. You have to consciously think about picking up your feet throughout the race to reduce the risk of falling. I found as I got near the end of the run and my legs started to fatigue I was stubbing my toe on things that I was skimming across during the first half. I constantly reminded myself to pick up my feet as I watched for rocks, limbs, roots and other obstacles.
2. Wear Old Tennis Shoes – You don’t want to worry about getting your shoes wet and muddy and in many cases you’ll do both. The trail runs in this area always have patches that are wet because of streams and rivers that run through the woods or rain water that lingers in the thickness. Wear shoes that fit well and are comfortable and that you won’t mind throwing in the washing machine when you get home.