Trail running is a bit of a different experience than running on pavement. Running on trails is quite a bit more of a technical experience, because you need to be aware of your foot placement for the entire run. Somehow for me, this helps me to keep my mind focused on that and less on how much farther I have to go, or how big that next hill might be. It’s a lot easier for me to get lost in the run and clear my mind.
Trail running is a different type of workout than regular running. When you run trails there is generally more and steeper hills. Because of this your heartrate will likely be elevated more frequently, but yet will have time to recover on the downhill portions. Also trail running, because of the “rough” terrain uses more muscles than running on pavement. Your body is forced to work harder balancing on the trail so muscles that normally get ignored will get a workout. One of the best aspects of trail running for longtime runners is that the dirt displaces force that normally goes straight to your ankles, shins, knees and hips. Trail running is actually a good workout to start back with after dealing with runner’s knee. Obviously, trail running comes with it’s own risk, but in general it is a good think to mix in some trail runs with your normal runs.
Richmond is within an hour of some of the greatest trails in the United States. The Red River Gorge is know throughout the world for its trails. The sites and sounds you can experience getting miles out on a trail in the Gorge is going to be completely different than you can experience running the city streets in Richmond. Part of that experience is going to require the ability to accept the fact that the run will be slower. Most will add a minute or even more to your time per mile compared to road runs. That’s OK though because if you enjoy nature at all you won’t want to miss anything.
It’s important to be safe with trail running just as with any other runs. Safety looks a little different on trails though. For one, there is a very good chance you will get no cell phone service on the trail. Be sure you are with other people and that someone knows where you are going, the trail you plan to run and when you should be back. Be sure you know the trail or are with someone who does. There are lots of twist and turns that look very similar. Plus intersecting trails that can get very confusing. Have a plan and stick to it.
One of my goals is to run the Rugged Red which is a half marathon through the Red River Gorge. I know several of you have shown interest as well, so this summer I am going to schedule one Saturday group run each month at Raven Run in Lexington. This is another great place to explore some trails. There is a mix of single track (one person wide) and open field trails. Raven Run is only about 20 minutes from our normal home (White Hall). Watch the Run Richmond Group Run page and Facebook for more updates on the trail runs.