What is trail running? In the broadest sense, trail running can be defined as any kind of running not on a paved surface. Epic shots of nimble athletes hot-footing it over rugged, mountainous terrain is one part of the discipline, but it can also be as simple as choosing the dirt path round the park over the pavement. Trail running is characterised by a closeness to nature, and the sense of escape and adventure it provides. There’s not a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to start trail running, and it’s the freedom this discipline fosters that makes it easy to see why it is becoming increasingly popular.
Why swap the tarmac for the trail? Trail running can be a great way to switch up your regular run routes, especially if the novelty of people-dodging on the pavement has started to wear off, or your joints are aching for a little break from repeated impact on hard surfaces. It can be challenging to find that flow state on the road - traffic lights, people, data - trail runs can be used in isolation or in conjunction with training on the road, and may provide some respite from the noise. Some athletes find that directing their energy and concentration toward their footwork over loose rocks or trickier terrain leaves little room for much else in the mind, providing a sense of clarity and stillness that can be harder to reach on the road.
For those who find the endless data available to us a little dizzying, or even daunting, venturing off the beaten track can serve as a reset, and a nice reminder that the speed of a run doesn’t necessarily determine its quality. Trail runs can rack up elevation easily, so it’s not uncommon to walk up steep ascents or use running poles for assistance.
What about the kit? The main difference you’ll spot is in the shoes: trail shoes are all about the grip to avoid spills on slippery, uneven, and unpredictable terrain. They feature lugged outsoles for stability, and often utilise GORE-TEX to keep feet dry when storming through puddles or mud. Ripstop materials and toe protection make them a little more rugged than their road counterparts, and ensure practicality for year round running - they can make a good winter shoe that you don’t need to be too precious about when braving the elements, even on tarmac.
Embracing the freedom trail running grants can make for some epic days out adventuring, and these require good fuel to keep energy levels up and stave off the dreaded bonk (for those new to endurance sport, bonking is a colloquial term for when you’ve run out of carbohydrates to fuel your workout, so energy and mood plummet - it’s best to eat little and often to avoid reaching this point). We’re partial to the half hike, half trail run approach: heading up to a viewpoint and stopping to savour the view and an energy bar before rocketing down. If you’d rather stay on the move, a gel can work well as a light alternative that can be easier to take on than munching through a bar between breaths. Depending on the length of run, no food may be needed, but it’s advisable to carry some emergency nutrition should a bonk threaten unexpectedly.
Events can be a great way to find your feet when getting into a new sport, helping you to meet like-minded people and develop a shared passion. At Rawvelo, we have some exciting events in the pipeline, so keep an eye on our events page to secure your place early.
When it comes to trail running, there’s no manual. It’s a fluid discipline shaped by the individuals who take pleasure in doing it: whether you’re training for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc or ditching the tarmac for the dirt with the dog in tow. Walking, jogging, hiking, sprinting, or even a little scramble can be part of trail running - so long as you’re out in nature, soaking up the outdoors and getting some headspace.