Are you ready for a different kind of adventure? Trail running - simply running on unpaved footpaths - might well be the most freedom-inducing sport out there. Stepping off the asphalt won’t necessarily get you a PB, but will instil a sense of adventure, discovery and some stunning scenery into your run. If your regular route feels like a grind and you want to discover new local places, it’s time to try out the trails.
We asked some of our trail running Tribe what they love about going off-road and their top tip for road runners thinking of giving it a go. Here are their inspiring replies.
‘Only on the trails can you escape a sense of a landscape dominated by, in thrall to, the car. Running in the countryside, redolent with echoes of a simpler past, along ancient routes and more recently created trails, it’s possible to get a powerful sense of what our country once was and can still be. Valuable, literally grounding knowledge.’
‘It’s more than one community. There are mountain runners, fell runners, cross country runners - I don’t really fit into any of those. I’m part of the ultrarunning community, and a co-founder of the Black Trail Runners community. In both cases, it’s about being surrounded by like-minded people who speak the same language, share the same passions and preoccupations, experience the same celebrations and tribulations. When you’re with your running family, you don’t have to explain this strange obsession.’
‘It all started when a running club friend asked if anyone wanted to join her on a trail marathon. I thought, why not? Twenty-six miles in the Sussex countryside turned out to be like nothing I’d ever done before - at least not since the misery of winter cross country in Epping Forest when I was a schoolboy! I’d probably pay money to run in a forest in January now!’
Top Tip: Don’t worry about your pace. It’s the hills and mud you need to embrace.
‘Trail running is a form of meditation for me. I never see it as a form of punishment or a gruelling task on my to-do list – it’s something I look forward to and plan because it excites me and makes me happy. When I’m on the trails, I fully immerse myself into just being outdoors and it works wonders for my sometimes stressed and anxious mind!’
‘Living in Dorset, I’m a sucker for the Jurassic Coast and its dramatic views. But equally, sometimes I will pick a route based on the type of terrain I feel like running; sometimes that’s a boggy muddy forest and other times it’s undulating terrain of grassy rolling hills.’
‘I see trail running as an opportunity to explore more of the outdoors and appreciate places I haven’t been to before and views I may not have seen before. In my opinion it should be fun, exciting and flexible.’
Top Tip: Listen to your body and not your watch/Strava. Trail running can involve technical sections, it may be hilly, slippery and you may come across loose rocks - so you need to keep your eyes on the ground and not your wrist!
‘I love being outside and enjoy moving through the changing landscapes. I sometimes struggle to sit still and running makes me feel grounded and able to relax afterwards. I started running trails as I spent years guiding mountain hikes and spending time out in the hills and it seemed like a natural progression.’
‘The trail running community is really friendly, everyone says hello when sharing the trails. My main focus is long distance ultras - I'm better at endurance than speed, as I work as a mountain leader. I really enjoy the journey of ultra's and the friendly feel. Everyone looks out for everyone else and is willing you to finish.’
‘I love chatting to strangers in the middle of the night who then become friends as you share the same crazy hobby and suffer together to achieve the same goal. Your body will go where your mind takes it, just to get out, keep breathing and pick your feet up - gravity will take care of the rest.’
Top Tip: Just give it a go and don't worry about speed or running the uphills. Just enjoy being out and relax.
‘It doesn’t matter how fast or long you run; just get outside and enjoy it! For me, running trails helps to clear my mind and maintain my fitness. It’s also a chance to appreciate my stunning local scenery - I often pick a route just for the views.'
‘I’m lucky enough to live on the edge of the Peak District and after many years road running, I felt the need for a new challenge. What I thought was going to be a few 10k trail runs to keep fit during lockdown has turned into an obsession.’
‘The trail running community is a great place to share advice and achievements, and support one another when you temporarily lose the drive to get out and run. Come and join!’
Top Tip: Do it! Get some decent trail running shoes, make sure you plan your route, take the right equipment. And enjoy a different kind of running experience.
‘It’s all about the views! I also love to explore new places, so finding new routes is all a part of the excitement for me. I love all the different terrains, there is more freedom and less people around to bump into!'
‘Initially I’ve always loved cross country - all the muddy, boggy, water and other obstacles. I enjoy pushing myself. Then I found my body would be absolutely crushed after a tough XC, so needed to find something a little easier to enjoy on a more regular occurrence. I live on a farm in the Norfolk countryside, so there are so many different footpaths and trails to explore just from home.’
‘I find the trail running community to be the best. There are so many people at different levels and I’ve found that most runners do trail purely for enjoyment and sharing the beautiful places that you can get to.’
Top Tip: Always take a fully charged phone, for those ‘oops’ moments where you’ve taken the wrong turn and need to find your bearings.