I’m not a huge fan of road running. I partake in road races, I enjoy what they offer, and I love working to set new PRs. That being said, they aren’t one of my passions.
Trail running, on the other hand, is amazing.
Here are a few reasons why I prefer trail running, and why you should consider adding some trail runs to your repertoire:
Reconnecting with Nature While Running
There’s a theory called the “Biophilia Hypothesis“ which proposes that human beings have a bond with nature that is both primitive and instinctual. There is nothing quite as primal and invigorating as running in the woods. Often times I’ll opt to do so without music, and use the sounds of the forest as my soundtrack. Okay, so sometimes I run without music so I can hear bears sneaking up on me, but that’s not the point. Many times I’ll feel compelled to slow down and take in scenery, or take a photo of the sunlight shining through the trees. There’s this silence in the forest that silences the mind.
I can run the same trail every day and see something different. Whether it’s caused by the light shining through the trees in a different way, seasonal changes, or something caused by the inhabitants of the woods, I have yet to go on a trail run identical to the run previous.
The scenery is always changing during trail runs, and I never get bored of my surroundings. Ever. I’m sure part of this is because a certain level of attentiveness is required so I don’t trip over roots or rocks, whereas road running is smoother. This required level of attentiveness to the ground also helps the time pass quicker, and distracts your mind from the side-effects of physical exertion.
It’s Not About the Pace
I’m a distance gal, not a sprinter. When I started running I would get discouraged by my companions being able to go so much faster than I could. That was until I started being able to run a lot farther than they could. A running coach told me I should consider focusing more on lengthy runs than 5k’s. When you run in a trail you can’t push the pace the same way you can on a road. My pace while trail running is painfully slow in comparison to my road running pace, but I never feel like I’ve put in less work.
From the health side of things, the most obvious benefit to trail running is the lower impact of soft surfaces. This is a perfect option for runners who need a break from the pavement, or those who have difficulties with their knees. Also, due to the uneven ground and rapid changes in elevation, trail running works the ancillary muscles in the legs. This means you are activating different muscles than you would in a typical road run, making your legs even stronger.
Oh, the extreme weather fluctuations of my home. There’s nothing like living in a place that can fluctuate from minus to plus 40 throughout the year. In the winter months it’s not uncommon for it to fluctuate 30 degrees in one day. The weather on the trail however is often different. On sunny days it provides shade. On windy days it provides a barrier. Unfortunately this can work the other way too and you can end up slipping on a big chunk of snow in May, but I digress.
Bye Bye Self-Consciousness
I’m an ugly runner. I sweat profusely. I get redder than Grandma’s marinara sauce. Birds don’t care if I’m gasping for breath. Rabbits don’t care if I look like a deranged tomato. The aforementioned bears might, but I have yet to run into one. What I’m saying is there is solitude in the trails for people who skip running because they feel awkward. It’s something to consider.
These are seven personal reasons why I prefer trail running. It’s not for everyone, but I would encourage everyone to work an occasional trail run into their training cycle. Always be cautious when you head out on the trail: know the local hunting season, bring a phone in case you get injured, ALWAYS tell someone where you’re going, remember that it gets dark fast in the woods, and be smart. Please. Being smart is underrated these days.