Are you a marathon runner, training to continually one-up yourself with faster and faster race times? Well, it might be time to take on a new kind of challenge: Mother Nature. Okay, well that’s not really a fair match-up because nature has shown time and time again that she will always win—but the outdoors continue to be an awesome place to test out your running skills.
For road runners, trail running can seem pretty intimidating. After all, those trails often feature obstacles, crazy elevation changes, and harsh conditions that can make your run feel like a survival race.
It’s easy to pick up what you need while you’re out running if you’re just pounding the pavement of various city streets. Things get a little trickier once you make your way into the wilderness where you can’t just make a quick stop at a convenience store. If you’re feeling ready to make the jump into trail running, we’ve written the best guide for how to get started and what gear you need to start doing it.
Choose trails you know first
Before you head out into the unknown, aim for lower mileage runs on trails you’re already familiar with. This will make your transition from road to off-road a little easier. It might put you at ease to start with well-traveled trails at first. Then, once you get more comfortable and have some relevant experience under your belt, you can take on new trails. You don’t want to get discouraged right off the bat!
Don’t forget about gear
You don’t need to immediately drop thousands to have a successful trail running experience. Pick up some cheap running shoes, a water bottle, and moisture-wicking clothes. With just these basics, you’ll do just fine on a variety of trails.
Once you’ve been hitting your off-road routes for a while, you can figure out what kind of gear you actually want to invest in and what you need. With that said, it’s important to have at least one extra layer on your person at all times, in case anything happens with sudden weather changes.
Trail running is going to challenge you in ways that you’re not accustomed to on your road runs. In order to stay motivated, start off your trail runs with a much slower pace until you get the feel for your groove.
Safety tips for trail runners
Before you grab your shoes and head out on a trail run, there are some important safety considerations to keep in mind first.
Bring a map and compass
Even the most seasoned of runners can get lost in dense forest or in a maze of confusing trails. All it takes is a few minutes of inattention and suddenly, you forget where you are, and your phone has no signal. It’s important to bring a map of the area where you’ll be running and leave a route map in your car as well at the trailhead.
Have a hydration plan
As you can imagine, you’re not going to find wild fridges full of crisp water on the trail while you’re running. And if you do see them, it’s likely a mirage. With that said, it’s important to carry water with you. You can last a long time without food but going without water can quickly turn into a dangerous situation.