Trail Running 101 (cont.): How to Run more Confidently

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When I ask attendees at my ChiRunning workshops, I’m always amazed at how many runners don’t run trails. I suppose there are lots of reasons why someone might be a bit shy about heading out into Nature with nothing but dirt to land on. Could it be the wild animals that lurk in the woods? Or maybe it’s just the serial killers. Whatever the reasons are for anyone, I’m sure it’s based in fear of some sort. There have been only a very few times in my 35+ years of trail running that I’ve felt fear. I’ve never been chased by a wild animal and certainly not by another human being (with the exception of my competitors in racing events). I have been caught in a lightning storm at 11,000′ elevation in the Colorado Rockies and I’ve jumped over a rattlesnake that I mistook for a rock. I’ve run along trails where one misstep could result in a vertical plunge of a couple hundred feet. But, generally I feel trail running to be much safer than running in a city. So, if we can take some of the fear out of running on trails, maybe we can turn more runners on to the joys of running “pavement free.”

Here’s my contribution to dissipating some of the fears that might come up. I’m guessing that one of the reasons for not trail running has got to be either the fear of running on an uneven or slippery surface or even worse…falling down on an uneven or slippery surface. So, here are a couple of tips for you newbies.

Running Downhill on Loose Gravel
If you’re running downhill on a single-track trail and the surface is loose dirt or gravel there are a couple of things to do. If there is grass growing along the sides of the trail I suggest running there where the traction is better. The next best thing to do is look for spots on the trail where your feet won’t slip. These could be buried rock, roots or any place where you can see solid ground. If you begin to train your eye to see only the solid places on the trail, pretty soon all of the loose footing will disappear from your field of view and all you’ll see will be the multitude of safe places for your feet to land.


Posted in Technique

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