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Trail running is a great way to experience the beauty of the outdoors and gain the health benefits of running. Here's what you need to get started...
Just stepping off the pavement onto a footpath makes you a trail runner! From footpaths to big mountain paths, and everything in-between, these are the domain of the trail runner. It’s this freedom that trail running brings alongside the mental and physical benefits that make it such a great sport. By taking some simple preparatory steps you will be able to enjoy the trails safely whether you are new to trails or already have some experience.
At Run the Wild we look to help people along their running journey on the trails, and a few questions repeatedly crop up: How do I find routes? What kit do I really need? Is it actually safe? Won’t I twist my ankle?
To help, we’ve addressed 6 key areas which we feel may benefit those starting their trail running journey.
The easiest way to find routes in your local area is to jump on STRAVA and see what other trail runners are doing in your area. If you want to create your own route, there are several online apps such as Outdoor Active, and Kamoot, which allow you to plot out a route and then follow it live when you are running.
You can also have a search for Park Run and they kindly show you a map of all their 5k routes. Whilst some of these are paved, many are not, and can be a great starting point for a 5k loop. Join a local running club, or come along to a 'Run the Wild' run, where our routes have been specifically planned to be as scenic and interesting as possible! Wherever you go, make sure if you are on your own, that you tell someone your proposed route. 'Run the Wild' also offer Navigation courses to help build confidence in map reading and route creation. The key thing is to build your confidence and competence before taking on bigger challenges.
Trail shoes and a waterproof jacket will be your best investments, everything else depends on weather, distance and time of day.
Trail shoes are different to road shoes. With lugs for traction, a toe box, a rock plate (which saves your underfoot from stones), harder wearing uppers, a good grip pattern and a sole compound which grips in wet and dry conditions. There are winter and summer trail shoes and some other options which try to do a bit of both.
Running packs give you the opportunity to go further safely. They give you the flexibility to take more kit/food/water etc with you. 5 litre packs are usually sufficient for shorter distances. As a trail runner you need to be more self-sufficient and so a basic first aid kit is a really good idea.
With the UK weather a waterproof jacket is going to be a great investment. It’s light, windproof, warm and also waterproof. It’s something that us guides always pack - even if it’s sunny!
We always recommend telling someone where you are going as a safety precaution as well as starting in familiar areas during the daytime. You’ll face other users such as mountain bikers and wildlife as well as cattle but go steady and keep looking ahead as you gain confidence. It’s all part of the beauty and variety of the countryside.
Trail running is an all body workout, so it’s great for strength, endurance and also for road runners wanting to cross train. If you want to improve then you’ll need to do some strength and conditioning, working your leg muscles with exercises like squats and your core with planks and leg raises.
There is a technique to running up and downhills as well as dealing with technical trails. This comes with practice but you can also sign up to any of the 'Run the Wild' events (we accept absolute beginners to trail) and you will get trail technique instruction. It makes a big difference to your confidence and enjoyment of the trails.
To make the most of running in the UK you will need a decent head torch. We don’t all have the luxury of daytime running, particularly during the winter months when there is approximately 8 minutes of daylight each day!
Ideally run a trail you have run in the daylight, so you know what to expect. We also suggest that you run with company, but don’t be completely put off trying a dark run. You will be amazed at how much wildlife comes out after dusk!
Trail running really is all about freedom - freedom to run where you want to and leave behind everyday life. The benefits of running in nature are huge and once you gain confidence you’ll want to explore more and have an adventure, it really is worth the little bit of extra effort to get started.
'Run the Wild' is all about helping runners on their trail running journey. From 10km to multi-day trips in the Alps, all our runs include guided instruction from our expert run leaders so you can achieve your trail running goals. And if you are an OSD Healthcare patient, we have an exclusive 10% discount code just for you. Simply ask the Patient Services team when attending your next appointment.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or need some advice.