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Be One with the Forest: Trail Running

Last week, on my way to Seattle I was lucky enough to be driving through one of the US’ national parks. Knowing that I was due for a run that day and I had my trail runners in the trunk, I decided to stop in and hit up the trails instead of waiting to arrive in the city. Trail running is great because unlike road running, it’s less about speed and time and more about the journey. Nothing beats running through pristine forest trails on a nice sunny afternoon.

Trail running is much more complex and technical when compared to running on asphalt. Every so often on the road, you’ll find a bump or hole you’ll have to navigate around, whereas when trail running it’s a constant challenge. Roots, rocks, branches and bushes are your obstacles here and it becomes increasing apparent that you can’t let your guard down. The focus is less on speed and more on carefully balancing, bounding and dodging as you make your way down the trail safely. As such, you’ll be working a whole ton of muscles that normally wouldn’t get activated during a regular run. Don’t be surprised if you stumble or catch your ankle from rolling over on multiple occasions. Again, don’t let your mind wander like it can during a road run as your concentration should be firmly focused on making every stride count and with it those minor foot, leg and body adjustments to move smoothly.

Appropriate trail running shoes are, in my opinion, a must. They are built a little more rugged/rigid than normal running shoes to account for the difficult terrain. As a result, they are also longer lasting as their soles won’t wear down as fast on the more aggressive, abrasive ground. I’ve found that when running on both dirt roads and desert environments, normal running shoes will wear down very quickly due to the fine sandpaper like terrain. Therefore trail runners in those cases are also more appropriate. That being said, I wouldn’t wear my trail runners on asphalt as the harder cushioning, I feel, is tougher on my joints. I am currently running with the new Brooks Cascadia 6 trail runners. My last pair were the Cascadia 4s and they were great. I like how the Cascadia feel as light and nimble as normal running shoes but offer the ruggedness and support needed for trail runner. The other ones I’ve tried including some Salomons and Asics didn’t feel as quick and light.

Racing is also starting to become more and more popular. As I said, any notion of time is completely thrown out the window as each race is completely different from the last regardless of distance. One thing is certain, expect to find tough terrain and possibly some wet obstacles like creeks or rivers to cross. The challenge really comes from giving your all and finishing the race. Expect to almost double your normal road running times. In and around Quebec, the Course en Fôret series are great trail running races I fully recommend. There are surely other events in and around Canada/US that are worth checking out.

Definitely give trail running a try. It’s really fun training that can break up the monotonous hard pounding road running as well as give you a nice change of scenery.

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