Trail Running for Beginners

Trail running is so much more than simply running along trails. Trail running is about connecting with nature. Trail running is about challenging yourself. Trail running is about exploring new and exciting places. Whether you are on the fence about trail running or simply after a new perspective, these 5 key tips are going to help you get on the trails, and stay on the trails for longer.

1. Shoes Shmooze

I remember running my first trail marathon thinking I knew everything there is to know about trail running. I was out in front wearing my expensive trail running shoes that were built for this exact terrain. Then, I was overtaken by a guy in beat up old Nike’s. He went on to win the race and set a new course record. I, on the other hand, was left to ponder the legitimacy of trail running shoes. And whilst I still think that trail running shoes have their place in this sport, I believe that any comfortable running shoe can do the job. I have since ran the UTA100 in my normal road running shoes, finishing in just 13 hours. So if you are thinking about picking up the sport, I encourage you to just go out and run in whatever comfortable shoes you have. And if you’ve been trail running for a while, try your road shoes out on the trails, if the conditions aren’t too technical or muddy. And if your feet hurt, or your shoes start getting beat up, get new ones before they’re fully worn out. Your feet with thank you.

2. Walk the Walk

Running is hard work, especially up hills. Trails can be unforgiving at times and all you want to do is stop running, and that’s OK! Walking is a huge part of trail running. Whether you are gassed, your hips are sore, or you simply need a break, there is nothing wrong with slowing down to a walk. Sometimes I find it helps me gather enough energy for another long section of running.

3. Always Pack Extra!

Whether it’s water, snacks, warm clothes, or first aid, it’s always worth carrying more than you need for your intended route. Most of the time you won’t need it and it deosn’t add much extra weight (you may also get more gains from this additional weight). But when you come across someone who is lost or injured, or you find yourself in this same situation, you’ll be grateful for the extra Clif Bar and the emergency blanket. Sometimes trails are impassable at points, forcing you to take alternative routes, and that extra 500ml could mean the difference between heat exhaustion and a lovely run.

4. Bring a Mate

Trail running with someone else can take the enjoyment of this sport to a whole new level. A running buddy can make the impossible feel possible as you cheer each other on up a mighty hill. A running buddy can make the gruelling challenges more bearable and the vistas more rewarding. Nothing is better than sharing the triumph of finishing a long run with a mate (especially over an ice-cold Bundaberg Ginger Beer).

If you’re new to the sport or don’t have many trail running friends, look online for trail running clubs in your area. Most clubs will have a Facebook page from where you can join organised runs, or simply see if anyone is interested in tagging along on your next adventure.

5. Patience

If you aren’t seeing the progress you were hoping for, that’s ok, just keep running and you will get better, faster, and more resilient. Try a targeted running plan to help keep you on track towards your goal at a reasonable pace. Some plans are even targeted for specific trail races. Hanny Allston currently has some free training planners available on her website. Some are suitable for beginners, with others being tailored for specific ultramarathons across Australia.

Some injuries take a long time to heal, and sometimes you have to put trail running on the side line for a while. But trail running will always be there for you when you’re ready to pick up the shoes again. In the meantime, try to stay active in other ways. With my current IT band injury I’ve been doing a lot of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and strength training.

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