Running on dirt is gentler on the body and lovelier on the soul. In fact, there is nothing better than leaving the pavement behind to experience the flow of a trail, the smell of the woods and the freedom of the hills. Some people are intimidated by the idea of disappearing down a single track trail that leads into the wilderness, but it is less daunting than you think.
Here are seven tips to get you started.
1Lose Yourself Locally
Many cities have endless kilometres of dirt trails tucked into ravines and natural areas hidden from crowds and traffic. Some of my favourite trail runs are right in the middle of Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto.
2Get The Right Gear
A pair of trail running shoes and a running vest to carry water, snacks and some safety gear are all you really need.
3Take Safety Essentials
My basic summer running kit includes emergency blanket, headlamp, matches, tensor bandage, bear spray, a buff, gloves and lightweight wind jacket. If you plan to run a remote mountain route, take an emergency locator beacon and a rain jacket.
Trail runners are friendly people and very accommodating to different speeds, abilities and levels of experience. Bring a cold beverage and some salty snacks for the inevitable post-run tailgate party.
5Don’t Get Lost
Take a map or download a GPS-enabled trail app on your smartphone. Even if you are with a group, be navigationally self-sufficient.
6Learn To Power-hike & Fly Downhill
Hiking up the steep hills can be more efficient than running. Mad downhill running skills come with practice.
7Sign Up For A Race
There are countless local and destination trail races ranging from 5K to 200 miles that will provide challenge, camaraderie and fun. A target race will keep you motivated.