Trail Running……..Trail Falling! - Chi Running

Trail Running……..Trail Falling!

Posted by Keith McConnell on Sun Jan 17th, 2010, 4 comments

As wonderful and liberating as trail running can be, it is almost inevitable that a fall is somewhere in a trail runner’s future. The question is not “if” but “when” and how well the runner will roll, recover and begin running again. Along these lines, I’d like to share a recent experience I had while running a trail marathon near Mt Hood in Oregon.

During the second of two loops on a trail around a large lake, I was running along in good Chi Running style only vaguely noticing the plethora of roots that  covered the terrain. I recall feeling good, moving steadily forward with no apparent worries in the world.  Then, in an instant,  as if hit by a bolt of lightening, I was stumbling and on my way down.  No time to think, I hit the dirt and like a child in a gymnastics class, I rolled forward over one shoulder and was back up and running before I knew what had happened.

“Great roll, dude!” I heard a young runner next to me exclaim.  “Thanks,” I called out as I cleared my head and resumed a good pace. But  inside, I was wondering what had just happened to me. I sure hadn’t seen the mischievious root that had brought me down. What did I do wrong – and what did I do right in rolling and recovering so smoothly.

For me, it was important to learn from the experience so I spent part of the rest of the marathon reflecting, body scanning and generally becoming even more focused and aware of my running form than ever. What I figured out was that on the return of my leg from the back to the front of my stride, I had let my attention wane and had not adjusted for the slightly higher surface of the root. Consequently my toes grazed the top of the root and I lost my balance so much that down I went.

The good news was that due to my Chi Running technique with its alignment, core engagement, physical ease and high degree of overall body balance, I was able to respond intuitively. I unconsciously dipped one shoulder and surrendered to the forward force that I had initiated while remaining relatively relaxed. Presto, I had gone from running to roots to relaxing to rolling to recovery in a split second – and I could thank the Chi Running technique for the positive process and the outstanding outcome.

I’m very curious what experience readers have had with such trail running spills. What falls have you taken and how did you respond to them? If we are going to be trail runners, “fall prevention” is a key, but the reality is that we have to be ready when the moment comes, when the root strikes  and we go down. At that time, the good running technique and high degree of awareness inherent in Chi Running are critical.

To the trails we go! Enjoy the trail running journey and good luck with the falls. 



  • trail running,
  • balance,
  • falling

4 CommentsLeave a comment below

Geez, I did that yesterday - with the same result!  I was kinda cool, but I was surprised to fall again the same run without the nice roll fall.  I guess I was flustered by the first fall despite the (pretty awesome, if I do say so myself) recovery.

when i find myself tripping more than once or twice on the same run, i run a cadence of, “pick your feet up”  (mumbled to a catchy tune) through my head over and over again.  it keeps me aware of my feet!

I took a nice fall last weekend but it was in the dark, and the humidity rising off my friend’s body caused a blinding fog in our head lamps. In the same manner, I was chugging along nicely and suddenly I was flying forward. Even scored some bonus points by drawing a little blood. In the day time, if I fall, it’s usually because I didn’t lift my foot high enough - either I was tired or distracted. Best thing to do is exactly what you did - relax and go with the flow!

I fell on my head running down a mountain slope in an unusually technical trail run the other day and had never fallen before. I intuitively rolled, got up at once, shrugged it off and kept on going. I was lucky and got away with hurt pride and minimal scratches. However, I had this weird heavy sinking feeling in my body for a long time afterwards, struggled to get my rhythm back and felt very heavy and slow. Even so, a friend who witnessed this said I was running really fast after the fall. Anyone familiar with this?

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