When we are born, we first learn to sit up. Then eventually we move about on all fours, crawling from spot to spot. Next we practice standing and taking our first steps, learning to walk and falling occasionally, but always getting back up. Then we master walking, confidently, able to walk across meadows and mountains. Next we learn to run… to trail run!
If you are one of those hikers who always seems to move quickly, wants to climb to the top of the hill as fast as possible, and then loves bombing down the trail—then trail running just might be the sport for you! Trail running, simply put, is going for a run on the trails, off the busy, loud, dirty roads. Trail running can be a mix of hiking and running, and is a low-cost sport that anyone can try. Even If you haven’t run or don’t consider yourself a ‘runner’, that doesn’t matter on the trails! You can run for a few minutes, then walk, and then run again later. This is a sport for every person of all abilities.
Why trail run? Why not just hike? Hiking has amazing benefits, and trail running doesn’t mean you stop hiking. A hike is great for going with friends and family and for slowing down and soaking in a single spot on the trail, be it a view of Buck Hill or the beautiful of Ponkapoag bog. Trail running is a different way to take in the beauty, through moving quickly through the woods.
Trail running is also a great way to busy your mind and your body at the same time. For anyone who has hiked or run on the Skyline Trail knows, there are rocks and roots everywhere. Trail running often requires as much mental focus as physical ability. When trail running, you must focus on these obstacles so that you don’t trip and fall. This focus takes the runner out of whatever else could be on the mind and puts them in the moment.
Trail running takes strength. Unlike road running, the trails are not as predictable and can have long, gradual climbs and descents or steep, brutal ones. These climbs can be power hiked, but doing so builds muscle and core strength beyond what road running can offer.
I’m afraid I’ll fall! Well, we can’t promise that you’ll never fall, but you can start slowly and build up to a full run. Try running on trails that are less rocky and rooty (we call these trails less ‘technical’). For example, Green Dot trails are wide and relatively clear of obstacles that are common tripping hazards. The Yellow and White triangle trails are a little more ‘technical’, and the Skyline Trail is the most ‘technical’. Work your way up from that Green Dot, start on easy paths. Unlike road running, you might need to consciously pick your feet up a little higher when running on the trails to avoid these obstacles.
Okay, I’m sold! What gear do I need? All you need for a good trail run is: a plan, shoes, and (sometimes) some water and food.
The most important part of ANY trail based adventure is to have a plan. Know where you are at all times, know how long you intend to be out (so you don’t get caught in the dark), and let someone know where you’ve gone. You might want to bring a hard copy of a trail map (or you can download the trail map on your cell phone and carry that).
Some people buy special trail running shoes (or “trail runners”) from running stores or outdoor gear stores, but if you just want to try it out, wear whatever is comfortable for you. Hiking boots might be too heavy and not give you enough ankle flexibility, but if those are most comfortable, feel free to try running with them. Road running shoes, or sneakers, are fine also. These specialty trail runners are similar to running shoes, but often have extra tread on the bottom to help with traction on leaves, muds, and wet rocks.
If you are running during a hot day or planning to be out for a long time, please bring water and food! Just like planning a hike, you don’t want to face dehydration or low energy while out on the trails. Bring a water bottle or hydration backpack and sneak in a snack, like some fruit or trail mix, or even sports performance gels.
Okay, I’m ready to start, but I’m still nervous. One of the best ways to get started with trail running is to go with a friend or with a group. Trying a new adventure or experience alone can be daunting but when you try with others, it can be empowering. Ask some friends who are interested in trying and go together. Or you could join a local group, such as the Trail Animal Running Club or a local race at the Blue Hills, such as the upcoming Houghton’s Pond Trail Race and Blue Hills Trail races, put on by the Colonial Road Runners.
Now that you have the tools to run at the Blue Hills Reservation, download our FREE trail chart to get ideas of which trails to run! This chart details 19 of our FAVORITE hikes that you can turn into your future FAVORITE run.