I’ve been a runner for basically all of my adult life, and I’m completely biased when I say this, but I’m convinced that there is no other sport or activity out there that is as accessible and adaptable as running
. It doesn’t matter if you want to run short or long distances, run quickly or slowly, run for one day or multiple days, or even run through the flat neighbourhood you live in or up through a hilly mountain range because with running, there is literally something for everyone. The onus is on you to pick your flavour, and once you do, you can literally just run with it.
At this point in my life, I’ve run nearly 30 marathons, as many or more half marathons, and tonnes of other shorter-distance races, but it wasn’t until I ran my first 50-kilometre ultramarathon through California’s beautiful trail systems that I discovered the joy that trail running brings me. Running on trails, through mountains and hilly terrain, is tough, of course, but it’s also so deeply gratifying that I think you have to experience it for yourself in order to fully understand its magnitude. Even if you want to continue running on flat pavement, incorporating some trail running
into your regular running routine will help make you a stronger, faster, more efficient, and more “balanced” runner, and there’s no denying how much good it will do for you mentally as well.
If you’re on the fence about getting into trail running, don’t be. It’s easier to do than you imagine, and realistically, you’ve got nothing to lose. Once you get into the thick of it, I bet you’ll even be wondering what took you so long to make the plunge in the first place!
I’m happy to share with you, below, my tips for getting into trail running:
Look at a map to see what’s around you
If you want to get into trail running, it first helps to know what your local options are. A quick glance at a map online will assuredly point you in the right direction, and if you have any doubt, basically anytime you see huge swaths of green will indicate that there’s a good-sized park or mountain range. An added bonus: many times there are paths adjacent to bodies of water (such as oceans, rivers, or lakes), so looking for blue on the map can also be helpful.
Do some research to see what your local trail running scene is like
The internet will prove to be invaluable to you as you begin to get into the world of trail running. A cursory Google search will show you many of the (trail) running clubs, meet-ups, and races in your area, and it’ll behoove you to befriend some local trail runners so that you may ask them any questions you have about the sport and so they can show you the ropes (and ensure you don’t get lost!) when you venture out into the trails for the first time. In Nepal in particular, there are tonnes of great trail running offerings available, such as the Everest Marathon
, the Manaslu trail race
, and Upper Mustang trail running
Hold off on buying trail-specific gear until you know you absolutely need it
It can be really tempting to go replace all your current running accoutrements with ones that are specific to trail running, but I urge you to wait. You may find that what you already have will be sufficient for your new trail running exploits -- therefore saving you some cash -- and realistically, it’ll only be through trial and error that you’ll find out what you need to replace. It’s in these types of instances that you’ll find that talking with more experienced trail runners in your community will be especially helpful because if you do find that you need to get new gear, you’ll be able to personally talk to friends to get their recommendations and insight. I"Ideally we recommend if you are a female runner, these best hiking boots for women
Expect it to be tough -- but also exciting.
If you’re used to running flat roads, you’re in for a world of treats when you begin trail running, but you may also find that it feels really challenging, even if you’re already “in shape.” While trail running might be easier on your body than standard road running -- think less impact, greater range of motion, moving in multiple planes of motion -- it’s highly likely that it’ll take you far longer time to cover the same amount of distance on trails as it would for you on roads, due to having to negotiate trails’ challenging terrain, such as technical ascents or steep descents. Don’t sweat it! Regularly trail running will help you become mentally tough, as you get used to spending lots of time on your feet, probably far more than what you’re accustomed to, and all this time on your feet and the mental callusing it brings will pay dividends on race day. In addition, let’s be honest: toughing it out on the trails will also make you feel like a badass (and who doesn’t want a little confidence boost every now and then?!).
The fruit of your labour: rocking it at a trail race
Once you’ve spent a sufficient amount of time preparing to race trails, come race day, you’ll be able to toe the line cooly confident that you’ll be able to cover the distance and enjoy your experience in the process. While trail running might have a different “vibe” than road racing -- most people say the former is more laid-back than the latter -- it’s still possible to be as competitive as you’d like to be while racing through mountains. By the time you cross your finish line, I bet you’ll be wondering when you can sign up for your next race and when you can return to play in the mountains!
Trail running is incredibly rewarding not only because of the experiences it yields in the process -- you’ll have a front-row seat to some of nature’s most beautiful elements -- but also because there are race distances out there for everyone, from a 5k all the way up to (and beyond) 100-milers. Incorporating trail running into your standard exercise routine may help enliven it a bit, and as silly as it may sound, I’m convinced that regularly running trails is just plain good for your soul.
The trails are beckoning, my friend; it’s time for you to go!