What’s the most important thing to learn for trail running? How to run downhill fast, without tripping over rocks and roots and breaking your neck.
In trail running, the pace, strain, and scenery alter with altitude differences and path. The changing landscapes and the forest’s scents and colors force the runner to stop and admire the unique atmosphere.
You can’t focus so much on keeping up the pace, as the platform, terrain, and obstacles determine the pace.
Here are a few different goals you can set for your runs:
- Try to develop your running technique and focus on shorter stride. When running in the woods, the step should be shorter than on the asphalt. With a dense step, you also have time to react to platform failures and slips.
- Work efficiently when running: take advantage of the terrain, don’t fight it.
- Forget measuring time and speed. Let the terrain go as you go, harder speeds on easier sections and slower on harder sections.
How to find trails near me?
If you live in a city or flat area, probably the only hills, except road overpasses, can be found at a park, and they might be about 30 feet long – hardly enough.
Some runners in the bigger cities use multi-level parking garages to perform their hill work. As you can imagine, it’s not the same as running on the wilderness trail.
Speed can be your friend when running downhill
Surprisingly, the most important part of trail-running training is the coming down part: running downhill on trails puts tremendous stress on quads and knees, and especially if you train in the parking garage, pounding down the ramps really prepares you for the real thing.
In addition to running the ramps (you can also wear weighted backpacks), you also breathe through an altitude simulator.
If you live in a mountainous rural area, simulating hills and breathing through a tube is unnecessary. In fact, if you live in a mountainous area, you might want to seek out flat stretches as avidly as others use to search for hills.
Preparing for the trail race event
Except for hill work (and perhaps specialized weight training), preparing for a trail race is pretty much the same as preparing for a flat race of similar distance.
Once you are fully trained for a rugged trail race and ready to take off, run it in a particular pattern:
- Take it easy on the uphill parts, jogging slowly or even walking.
- Run the flats.
- Speed is your friend on the downhill stretches.
Strangely enough, most folks do this exactly wrong.
Marathon, ultra-marathon, trail race: you so often see runners trying to charge up hills and putting on the brakes going down. Better to let gravity pull you along on those downhill sections. Remember, you can’t fool Mother Nature.