How to be a Trail Runner

Trail running is a completely different animal from road running. Besides being more fun (sorry, road warriors, but it’s true), trail running is challenging, exciting, and can be dangerous.  I’ve gotten the same question a couple of times– what makes someone a good trail runner? Or what makes someone just a trail runner in general? (Which I don’t know why they’re asking me–I’ve only been doing this for a little over a year, but regardless…) I think a lot of people have their own rules/tips for the trail, but I decided to share my tips on how to be a trail runner:

1). First, and foremost, HAVE FUN: the thing that sets trail running apart is that it’s just so damn fun. Everything is better in the woods. The scenery is better, there are no cars, and time just flies by. There’s also something about running through the woods that just makes you feel like a kid again. And trail races? Just about the most fun you can have.  What’s better than racing through the woods and finishing up with beers at the end with some of the coolest people you’ll ever meet? I’ll tell you — nothing.

2).  DON’T BE A DICK: Speaking of cool people, most legit trail runners are. They’re super encouraging, laid-back, chill people who all share a deep affinity for running off the paved path.  Greet everyone you pass out on the trails. Even if you’re hiking up a giant climb and gasping for breath, at least wave, smile, nod, or grunt.  Be encouraging as you pass other runners.  If you hear someone running behind you, step to the side and let them pass.  At races, be pleasant at the aid stations and to all of the volunteers. Yeah, it’s hot, and your body hurts, but if it weren’t for them and the nectar of the trail Gods which is Coke, your ass wouldn’t make it through the race.  After you finish the race, stick around and cheer for everyone else as they cross the finish.  There’s a reason this sport is so amazing, and a lot of that comes from the trail running community,  So don’t bring the whole community down by being like some of the athletes in other douchey sports which shall remain nameless.  Also, don’t be like this lady who has gone viral for giving the double-bird to a runner passing her at the end of the race.  I promise you won’t see that at a trail race.

 

 

2. (b): RESPECT THE TRAILS: Simply put, don’t be an asshole to the trail. Stay on the                              actual trail, pick up your Gu packets and nuun bottles.

 

3. EMBRACE THE UNCOMFORTABLE: As much fun as trail running is, there will be times when you feel like crap or your legs hurt or that climb just seems insurmountable.  You’re going to catch your toe on a root, you’re going to fall and hit your head, you’re going to suffer through black toenails and blisters. Embrace it.  Relish in the fact that these are the moments that make you a better runner; they also make you a true trail runner.  Trail runners are a bunch of bad asses.  They keep going even when their legs feel like they’ve been encased in cement, doused in gasoline, and then lit on fire.  If you want to see an example of this, look up pictures of Kasie Enman’s feet post-Speedgoat. I don’t want to spoil it for you but suffice it to say, daaaaaaaaang, girl.  Running, and trail running in particular, is hard.  Racing is even harder. That’s what makes it so much fun.

Well said, Jimmy, well said

4.  DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET GROSS:  The great thing about nature is she doesn’t judge.  And neither do trail runners.  Just about every bodily function and bodily fluid has occurred or been expelled out in the woods.  Trail races/runs last a long time, and sometimes nature calls.  And every trail has seen its share of snot rockets, spit, vomit, you name it.  We sweat profusely, we stink, shit (literally) happens.  It’s all a part of trail running. Trail runners also talk about their bodily functions… a lot.  So get comfortable being gross.  No one ever said trail running is sexy.  (In this vein, I like to adhere to the ol’ “what happens on the trails, stays on the trails” adage. This includes any and all trail discussions.  Sometimes long runs are similar to having a couple of drinks–stories get told that have no business leaving the confines of the group).

5. EMBRACE THE SUN’S OUT, GUNS OUT RUN:  Trail runners love running sans shirt.  And who can blame them? Runs feel so much better without that hot hindrance.  Breezes feel even more amazing when there’s no shirt to get in their way.  Guys and gals alike need to just take it off and experience the feeling of Sun’s Out, Guns Out.  Everyone’s stomach flops around when they run. Who cares? Just do it. Again, the trails don’t judge and neither do trail runners.  Plus, I’m willing to bet there is a direct correlation between performance and going shirtless.

Who said trail running wasn’t sexy???

Actually, I have no idea about performance and no shirt. I just know that I love running without one, and I thought it’d be a great excuse to include a shirtless pic of Anton Krupicka. You’re welcome.

That’s it. That’s all I have on how to be a trail runner. Anybody have any rules or tips they want to share??


Last week was my first pretty big week since Stage Race.  It was nice to get out there and bang out some hard workouts along with some long runs (Nice = hard as shit).  My body responds really well to the two hard, middle of the week workouts. Although my legs feel less than fresh for the long weekend runs, I firmly believe these are the workouts that make the difference between just finishing the race and, hopefully, competing (which is why Hunter prescribes them, duh). Last week looked kind of like this:

Monday: Rest day–hate it

Tuesday: Blue loop repeats– as if these aren’t hard enough, I decide to fall on my last loop, cut my head, and try to still negative split the loop (I failed by 19 seconds); Recovery PM run while watching the RunWild crew absolutely crush what, in my opinion, is the hardest workout they’ll do. These guys are legit.

Wednesday: East Nasty– Jim helped me push the pace a bit which meant I needed to run extra to make my time goal for the day which meant my post-EN beer was delayed. Running, followed by sitting around drinking beer while discussing running– the only thing that could make this better is if it were following a trail run. Too bad there isn’t a bar within walking distance to the trails…

Thursday: MP run — I usually dread this run, but Hunter mixed it up a little this time so I enjoyed it and did pretty well with it; Recovery PM run

Friday: Crazy day– only got in about a half hour run

Saturday: Long run with the RunWild crew. Even though it was an easy pace, this run was tough– luckily, Steven, Sinith, Sean, and David stuck with me which helped tremendously.

Sunday: Red/White/Blue

All in all, a pretty decent week.

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One response to “How to be a Trail Runner

  1. Great stuff that just reaffirms my love for the trails!!! I found this blog post a while back and thought I’d share. It is from a road runner that started dabbling in trail running and her first trail race experience. It echos several of the points you made.

    http://www.runladylike.com/2013/03/04/race-recap-mississippi-trail-run/

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