Walking, Hiking & Trail Running

What Is Trail Running? | Everything You Need To Know

A essential guide to trail running for beginners

You’ve probably overheard friends, family or even colleagues waxing lyrical about trail running. And while you might be a keen road runner, you are not quite sure where to begin when it comes to hitting the trails. Well that’s ok, you are not alone. Many of us are a little unsure about what trail running actually involves, what trail running gear you will need to invest in, and where the best places to go trail running actually are.

Trail running loosely refers to any running that takes place off-road, including fields, dirt tracks, lush forests, coastal paths and rugged mountainous areas. It is suitable for all levels of running ability due to the infinite number of routes to choose from. Some routes might be very technical with slippery roots, loose shale and other obstacles to negotiate, while others will be less taxing. Trail running has even been said to have a number of benefits over road running thanks to the varied running surfaces.

“There is a lot to be said for safety in numbers. Heading out solo on a trail you are not familiar with is not a great plan.”

If you are unsure about how you can get out on the trails for the first time, fear not, we have compiled a quick list of essential information for trail running below.

Essential tips for trail running:

1) Find a group

There is a lot to be said for safety in numbers. Heading out solo on a trail you are not familiar with is not a great plan. For starters you will need pretty reliable navigations skills to get you from A to B. A group will not only help you out with route planning, they will also forewarn you about any essential information you need about the route before setting off.

Trail running is generally a very social sport, people will chat while they are running and stopping to take in the gorgeous views is always strongly encouraged.

2) Plan ahead

If there are no trail running groups in your area, be sure to do your research before you head out on your run. Online blogs and forums can be great resources for picking up tips on trail running routes in your area. Trail running races can also be a good way to explore new routes. There are events taking place across the UK throughout the year, there are even a wide range of trail running races close to London.

Strava and ViewRanger are both great tools for route planning. You can opt to use a map and compass or a GPS – that is entirely up to you. If you are opting for the latter make sure you load the route prior to setting off and that your device is also fully charged.

3) Get the essential trail running kit

You will need to invest in a couple of pieces of essential trail running kit before embarking on your first trail run. A good pair of trail running shoes, a hydration pack, waterproof jacket and some good quality baselayers will go a long way to making your time on trails a lot more comfortable and enjoyable.

Decent trail running kit – like a hydration backpack – will make trail running far more enjoyable. Photo: iStock

4) Slow down

Trail running is very different to road running when it comes to speed. If you head out on the trails expecting to smash 7-minute miles, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Due to the technical and often hilly terrain there is more of a start-stop nature to trail running. Remember, you are there to enjoy yourself so don’t beat yourself if you need to walk the hills.

5) Watch your step

Making the transition from road to trail can sometimes be tricky – mainly due to the fact that people forget to watch out for obstacles. When you are out on the trails you need to keep your gaze fixed on the trail ahead to make sure you don’t get caught by low hanging branches, slippery roots or other obstacles.

Running on trails is trickier technically than on roads, so remember to watch your step. Photo: iStock

6) Embrace your surroundings

One of the best things about trail running is the fact that you are heading out into the great outdoors and leaving the everyday hum-drum of normal life behind you. Take time to embrace your surroundings – take in the view, look out for wildlife and don’t forget to take some pictures.

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