Getting Started With Trail Running

Michael Balle Hansen by Michael Balle Hansen

So you’re thinking of trying out trail running? Trail running is a great way to get out in the peaceful outdoors. It's hard to beat running through a forest with nothing but your breath as company.


Benefits to Trail Running

Trail running is great for your body and your mind. The mixed terrain will challenge you physically more so than running on a road, but you’ll also reap the meditative effects of being out in the great outdoors.

Trail running forces you to pay attention where you step so be prepared for a few months of stumbling around as you learn to traverse the roots, rocks and whatnot. This will build a superior balance and strength compared to road running, but quite frankly it also makes running more enjoyable. 

To avoid falling to much I recommend you keep your eyes about 2-3 meters from you and in the beginning be careful focusing to much on the other runners coming your way. I’ve tripped many times while saying hi to runners going my way. 

The benefits of the mind are actually quite large. You feel a stronger meditate state when trail running compared to road running. You’ll also notice that trail runners are less competitive than road runners. Stress and tension simply melts away and you become more easy going. 


Disadvantages to Trail Running

There aren’t many in my opinion and the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages by a large margin.


One disadvantage is that pacing goes straight out the window. If you’re a data type be prepared to be frustrated. It's near impossible to keep a solid pacing. You’ll will see wild fluctuations during your run but also from run to run. 

You will often also have to drive out to nature to do these runs which means more time spent as well as pollution of course. Many will only do trail running 1-2 per week due to this. 

Wild life. Depending on where you live you might run the risk of running into wild life. Here in BC we have bears and some cougars but in many places this isn’t an issue. If you’re in such an area I personally would recommend sticking with populated areas and either run with a bell or in a group. The danger is really if you startle these animals so noise is good.

Depending on the technical difficulties you really should have trail running shoes and not normal running shoes. Trust me you’ll love them. 

Recommended Gear

As mentioned above I recommend you get some good trail running shoes. If you’re just testing this out then by all means use your normal runners, but once you fall in love with this you should get some proper trail running shoes.

Running west. Depending on how long you run I would recommend you get a good running west. If you’re only running 5-10k then anything will work, but if you start going longer and in the warm summer days things start mattering more. There’s 2 kinds. One where you have a big reservoir in the back and others where you have 1-2 water containers in the front. I highly recommend you get the ones with water in the front, or maybe even a hybrid. The problem with the ones in the back as I learned on my first Ultra is that you simply don’t know when you’ll run out of water and you can only do one type of liquid. So either water or with electrolytes. I ran out of water a few times and other times I would reach the station with too much water. It's also a problem that you can’t do both types of liquid as you can’t properly control your electrolyte levels and end up drinking to much which causes nausea. 

Dual layered socks. If you run long distances then I highly recommend these. They help prevent blisters. And yes you’ll probably not avoid getting blisters, I know I don't, but anything helps and these socks do help.

Other gear. For long distances (half a marathon and up) then it helps to have electrolytes & salt tablets.


If you run during the day normal running clothes is just fine. For night runs which I really don’t recommend until you’ve run trails for at least a year you would need a headlamp.


Trail Etiquette

It goes without saying I should hope but don’t leave your garbage out in nature. Don’t be that guy/girl. What you bring out, you bring back. 


Remember to share the path. We’re all out there to have fun. So stay on your side. If you’re a big group read the environment and ensure there’s space for other runners. 


Having a bell on you or talking a lot is useful also in that people can get startled if you come up from behind. Be nice.


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