The term ‘trail running’ encompasses a number of different disciplines, but it is essentially, as the name suggests, running off-road on hiking trails and varied terrain that can offer a number of new and exciting challenges, from rocks and roots to hilly ascents and technical descents. What Are The Benefits of Trail Running?
There’s nothing more liberating than taking your running away from the roads and hitting the trails. It’s the perfect opportunity to unplug and tune-in to the pounding of your feet and the rhythm of your breathing, while enjoying unrestricted freedom in stunning surroundings. In addition to providing a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, trail running can be far gentler on your body due to the variety of surfaces you encounter. Dry earth, mud and grass provide far more shock absorption than tarmac, significantly reducing those joint jarring vibrations that can damage your knees, ankles, shins and hips.
Three Ways to Run Off-Road
Trail running is really accessible; you can make your run as challenging as you want it to be and it’s a great way to spend a few hours in the great outdoors. It’s easy to get started; have a look online for hiking trails that are local to you. National Parks offer some great, clearly marked routes that will take you through some beautiful scenery without taking you too far from civilisation. Once you’ve found your off-road rhythm, give yourself something to work towards by entering a local trail running event. These events occur regularly around the country, covering a variety of distances and levels of difficulty so there is sure to be something out there to suit you, whatever your ability.
Also known as Mountain/Hill Running, Fell Running is for those who are made of sterner stuff! It involves running and racing over higher ground, taking on tough terrain, steep gradients and challenging descents that test balance, agility and endurance. Whether you’re running for leisure or taking part in a race, once you’re out on the hills you’re on your own, so make sure that you have the right kit, are a confident map reader and have told someone where you’re heading if you’re thinking of having a go.
Ultra-Running is the ultimate challenge for the off-roader, with routes covering huge distances over some of the world’s most challenging terrain. There are two types of event, both of which are an an incredible test of physical and mental endurance; one requires runners to complete a grueling long distance course, and the other requires runners to complete a grueling long distance course within a specific amount of time. The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is one of the most infamous endurance races on the face of the planet. It covers 100 miles, roughly following the Tour de Mont Blanc hiking path through spectacular scenery. It is not a race for the faint hearted and less than half of the runners that enter make it over the finish line.
In Britain we are lucky to have acres of countryside and national parkland to explore. Start with an area that you’re familiar with and go with a friend; it will make for a sociable run and will offer a bit of security should either of you get into trouble. If you would rather head out with more experienced runners, there are plenty of trail running clubs that you can join and you if you go online you will find lots of websites offering advice on where to run and upcoming events around the country.
For tips on clothing and equipment, have a look at our Top 10 Trail Running Essentials.