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Trail Running 101 - The Basics

Getting out on the trails is a great way to take in nature and love the beauty that surrounds you

Trail running can provide a great change-up from road running. It’s a fantastic opportunity to really connect with nature in a visceral and tranquil way and feel a sense of belonging and attachment to the local area. In Canada we are blessed to have wonderful trails in abundance across the length and breadth of the land.

Todd Gallagher, a dedicated trail runner from the Comox Valley, BC, shared his thoughts and advice on trail running with Get Out There.

 1.  Why trail running over road running? What's the attraction?

I prefer trail running to road running for so many reasons, but I'll give you my top two. 1) Because it makes me feel more connected to everything, and especially the area where I live. 2) It's much more engaging for both my body and mind. I find I have to be more aware and in the moment when running on trails because one wrong foot placement could mean disaster. Also, it's just so darned beautiful running in the forest and mountains.


   2. What does one need to run trails in terms of footwear and clothing?

There are just a few things you need to get you out on the trails. First, a good pair of trail running shoes is important, they usually have a lugged sole which is better for gripping on trails and they usually have a rock plate of some sort to protect your foot from pointy objects. Trail running shorts usually have pockets and places to store keys, gels and your handheld device. The rest of the clothing is the same as road running clothing, a moisture wicking t-shirt, hat and sunglasses and you are good to go.


  3. What about hydration and nutrition pre, during, and post-run? How do you carry this while running?

I try to stay hydrated all the time and eat a well-balanced diet. During runs I'm likely to drink about 500ml if h20 mixed with electrolytes. I usually consume 200 calories an hour during runs longer than 2 hours, usually in theory of gels or bloks. I usually carry a race vest with a 1.5litre bladder and put my nutrition in there.


 4. What else should you carry with you when on the trails?

I usually carry: whistle, space blanket, small first aid kit, knife, lighter, hand held device, gels, bloks, salt tablets, sunglasses and a shell when I'm on long runs. If I'm out for less than 2 hour I will usually just carry a handheld water bottle and my phone.

 5. What are the best ways to learn about new trails?

The best ways to learn about the trails is to go to the local bike or running shop and get some trail maps and go exploring. Running with locals or with a running club is also a great way to get to know the trails. A good sense of adventure is a must!


 6. What about trail etiquette do's and don’ts?

Trail etiquette for trail running us much the same as mountain biking. Let faster runners by and if you are passing usually saying "passing on your left" is always nice. When running in a group you should wait at all intersections for the group to catch up, always run at a pace everyone will enjoy and never leave anyone behind. If someone is sick or injured stay with them and support them. Also, never drop or leave garbage on the trail, and if you see garbage, maybe pick it up for good trail karma. It's also important to give back so maybe get out there and help on trail maintenance days.


 7. Any other advice to offer or things that should be mentioned

My best advice is to grab your sense of adventure and head out to the trails for a run. When you are with other folks who have more experience than you, ask questions and pick their brains. Most trail runners are more than willing to offer up sage advice about trail running. Reading trail running magazines or reading internet articles from webpages like irunfar.com is a hat way to learn about trail running. Also, get out there and find out what works best for you as far as nutrition, hydration and gear. Remember, what works for one person doesn't always work for everyone.


By: Kerry Hale

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