Is Trail Running for You?

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Continuing last week’s post from my husband about trail running:

HaveMatWillTri.com: Trail RunningMany people often ask me if I enjoy one more than the other when I compare road and trail running and racing.  I really have enjoyed both road and trails based on their convenience and benefits.  Here are some of my thoughts on how these compare and contrast:

Trail running is mostly on dirt and occasionally on grass.  This offers a soft and low impact option compared to asphalt or concrete paved road running.  Running on softer trail surfaces reduce the possibilities of new running injuries related to shin splints, IT band, and joint pains.  It also helps people who are trying to recover from their past injuries.  Trail running gives you the opportunity to be close to nature and away from the hectic life, air and noise pollution in the city.  It also allows for a decompression/stress free time due to its inherent laid back nature.  Having a partner, a friend, or even a dog may be a great way to enjoy the slow nature of these runs.

On the contrary if you are looking for races to PR, trails won’t be an ideal choice.  Soft trail surfaces which helps in injury prevention and faster post-race recovery also provides lesser bounce for you to move faster.   Also if you the person who enjoys lot of race support, music, cheering, trails will not provide that adrenaline rush or stimulation.   Other drawbacks I can think of is the possibility of tripping or ankle injury due to sudden change in directions and stepping one has to do to avoid trail hazards like rocks, tree roots, or wet slippery portions.  It is also not uncommon to encounter some wildlife if running in State parks or other wilderness trails.

Finally if I have to pick one over the other, I would probably go with trail running.  Running in itself is very meditative phenomenon for me.  Running on trails while being one with nature is even more therapeutic.  Happy running to you – be it road or trails.

Take on the Trail

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My husband is continuing to guest post for me. This week he is talking about trail running, most of which he has done as part of his ultra-marathons. And we thought is was cute that they published a photo of him as proof of International Competitors. He might be from India, but he traveled only 50 miles for this race.

HaveMatWillTri.com: The Dirt on Trail RunningTraditionally, road running and trail running attracts different types of people.  Road running attracts the intense, competitive people. In contrast, trail running is populated by laid back, outdoorsy people.  Most runners consider trail runs to be mostly in the mountains or hills.  This may be true in some areas of the country but for some of us urbanites and people living in flat areas like Houston, a trail run is any run which is not on a paved road.  It can be in urban or rural areas. They are mostly held in State or local parks or around a water body–a lake or river.

After running several marathons and plateauing on my speed, I was on a lookout for a new goal.  If I cannot get any faster, I wanted to push my limits on the distance and endurance by trying something new and something longer perhaps.   This led me to a race called Sunmart that used to take place every November in Huntsville State Park, north of Houston.  From my running club friends I had heard about the Sunmart race included lots of goodies from breakfast and lunch to hats, gloves, shirts, medals etc.  I was also familiar with the distinctive bright yellow long sleeved running shirts and colorful jackets each past participant proudly wore during the cooler morning runs.

After signing up for my first Sunmart 50K trail race, I was awed by the difference in that race and my usual city marathon experience.  First of all the location: in contrast to my usual downtown marathons where we struggled to get parking spots, this race was held outside the Houston City limits in a state park along a serene lake.  Before the race started, I noticed people happily enjoying a full breakfast with eggs, fruits, scones, etc.

After the first few miles into the race the runners spread out quite a bit making the run very different from the road races with lot of music, cheering and bands.  The trail race was very quiet and meditative experience in the nature.  The aid stations along the way were well stocked with lot of food, drinks, candy, and homemade PBJ, etc.  Runners were treated to BBQ after the race as well.

The weather did not cooperate very much during my first year of this race, with temperatures in high 70s to low 80s and extremely high humidity.  I survived and finished my race, considering that all my training was only on paved surfaces.  I enjoyed the experience so much that I signed up for the very next year when we had exactly opposite weather conditions with temperatures in high 20s.  Most of the race included dodging slippery slopes and icy patches.  The scenery was phenomenal however with branches having slight snow and sunlight making the icicles glowing on trees.  That was the last year for the race with a major sponsor.  The race was about to be discontinued but was brought back due to its popularity.  I was able to participate in this event for 4 straight years.