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About Trail Running

What is Trail Running?


The best way to describe what trail running is is probably to start with stating what trail running is not.

Trail running IS NOT:

  • ...a nice, smooth run on a paved trail in the woods. The trails will be rocky, technical, and have natural obstacles such as creek crossings, downed trees, and low hanging branches to navigate. 
  • ...a place to set PRs. Don't expect to run your normal, road running pace.
  • a big city road race. There will not be thousands of people at a trail race.
  • ...for the faint of heart. The trails can be technical and tough at certain points. You need to pay attention to the trail ahead of you.
  • ...USATF certified courses. The USATF does not certify trail races. All distances are approximate. We encourage you not to focus on the distance and focus on the experience!

Now what we have a good idea regarding what trail running is not, let's take a look at what trail running is.

Trail running IS:

  • ...running on technical trails through the woods. These trails can have rocks, roots, mud, downed trees, low-hanging branches, leaf covered sections, creek crossings, hills, and other natural obstacles.
  • ...a time to focus on the experience, not your pace. Trail running is a great time to run through some beautiful trails and navigate natural obstacles along the way. The pace you have during a trail run will be much different than the pace you have on your training runs on the road. You should expect your pace to be anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes slower than your road pace depending on the technical nature or total elevation change of the trail.
  • ...a low-key and laid back experience. Trail runners value community and the chance to escape from their daily routine in order to hit the trail and experience nature. If you are looking for big corporate sponsors, USATF certified courses, huge SWAG bags stuffed with logo emblazoned knick-knacks that you will throw away in a week, or HUGE races, then trail running may not be for you. Trail runs are smaller, more laid back, designed to be approximately the distance advertised (don't be surprised to run a few more or a few less miles), and all about the entire experience: from the woods to the trail to the natural obstacles to hanging out and having a beer after the race.
  • ...a potentially dangerous experience. There's no way around it: if you are going to be running on single-track trails through the woods, you run the risk of getting hurt. Trail runners need to be alert and focus on the trail ahead of them. Trail running, unlike road running, does not involve running with the same gait. Your strides will constantly be changing in order to navigate the roots, rocks, trees, creeks, etc. on the trail.

The best way to truly understand what trail running is is to sign up for a race and hit the trails. You can read about trail running all day, but until you experience running through the woods while navigating natural obstacles, you will not truly know what trail running is all about.