Trail Running 101

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Spring is in full force and summer is quickly edging around the corner and I’m watching the trails turn from the starkness of winter into the million shades of green that pop out at this time of year. I love running trails because it allows me to witness the changing of the seasons firsthand with all my senses.

Since I spend many more hours running trails than on roads and streets, I’d like to offer some tips and suggestions for making this particular aspect of running, even more enjoyable.

Take care of Mother Nature and she’ll take care of you
The most important thing I’ve learned from my years of trail running is how important it is to take care of the trails you’re running, and there’s no better way than to devote a couple days every month to doing a little “housekeeping” so that you and everyone else can enjoy those trails more.  Here are some things you can do.

Trimming the trails
I went out this morning packing a pair of rose clippers, the kind you use to trim small shrubs. They’re easy to carry with you when you’re running and are great for clipping away overhanging branches that are a hazard to your head, or small roots that could snag your footfall. When I go out for a trail maintenance run I don’t plan on actually getting much of a run in. I stop for every obstruction that I can clear up with my clippers.

It’s springtime and new shoots are springing up everywhere along the trails. Some grow so thick they can block your view of the trail or soak your shoes if you brush them with your legs. These are the ones I’m after. I clip them close to the ground (or pull them up by the roots if they’re really small) before they can grow large enough to create problems. I always throw the clippings as far off the trail as I can so as to keep the natural beauty of the trail intact. In fact, I do my best to leave a trail looking as if it just naturally grows as a clear path.

Remove any loose rocks
Another thing I do is practice my foot agility by flicking loose stones off to the side of the trail with my toes like a soccer player maneuvers a soccer ball. Don’t ever try to kick a rock off the trail. You never know how deeply it might be buried. If it’s obviously lying there on top of the ground, it’s fair game. There’s nothing worse than landing on a loose rock and rolling your ankle, so these are constant targets for me.

Poison ivy removal
I am extremely allergic to poison ivy, so I caution any of you that are thinking of thinning the sides of your trails, to know what it looks like and take protective measures if you’re going to take it upon yourself to rid your trails of this toxic plant. I wear long sleeves, long pants and gloves when working with poison ivy. When I’m done, I wash my clippers in detergent and throw my clothes in the laundry by themselves, being careful to not touch anything but the inside lining of the clothing. Getting rid of poison ivy along the trails I run is a definite hazard, but it gives me lots of peace of mind. So, for me it’s worth the risk.

There are plenty of other things to do to help out your fellow runners and I’ll write about them in future blogs. Until then, this will get you started on doing your best to give your fellow trail runners a nice clean trail to run on and everybody will go home happy.
Happy trails,

P.S. As an added note to this series on trail running, I’d like to let you all know that a new revised edition of the original ChiRunning Book has just been released and it has a new chapter on how to run Hill and Trails. We hope you enjoy reading all the new material we’ve come up with since the book was first released in 2004.


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