By Coach Michele
Trail running is good, dirty fun, once you get past the uncertainty of it all. When switching from the roads to the woods, it’s important to adapt to the new terrain and learn to be safe in a wild environment.
Here's the quick and dirty guide to getting on the right path in trail running:
Start out on the right foot (in the right shoe). Trail shoes are designed for many purposes from digging into the dirt and mud to protecting the feet from rocks and roots to gripping slippery wet rock. It's best to know the terrain you're likely to run on and then get fit for the type of shoes suited for that surface. Not all types of trails call for trail shoes, but when they do, the right type will make the difference.
Be on your best form. Running on trails requires some changes in the way we run. First, don't be discouraged to go way slower (as in two to three minutes per mile slower) on trails than you would on the road. The uneven surface, obstacles and elevation changes you will encounter take more energy than running on flat ground and your pace will reflect that. Second, you need to pick your feet up higher and take shorter steps to avoid tripping on rocks and roots. Keep your feet under your body to more easily charge up hills. Keep your eyes on the path to avoid tripping. Finally, it's normal to walk more during a trail run than a road run. Try walking the hill climbs and running the flats and downhills to keep your energy and form in top shape.
Better safe than sorry. Always tell someone where you'll be running in the woods. If there’s a trail register, sign in and out. Watch for trail markers and junctions to avoid getting lost or running unplanned miles. Bring extra water and food for emergencies as well as a headlamp and extra sets of batteries in the event you're on trails as darkness falls.
With all the trails we have in and around Syracuse, it’s easy to find a path to trot on. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the final two runs of our Trail Run Series. This Thursday we’ll be running near Empire Farm Brewery in Cazenovia and next Thursday is Great Bear Recreational Trails in Fulton. Sign up here!