Trail running offers beauty and tranquility that goes unmatched by road or track running. Trail running also brings with it a lot more obstacles and danger. Before you hit the trails here are some ways to stay safe while you enjoy your adventure.
Run with a Partner
This is perhaps the best way to stay safe while trail running. If you injure yourself, a running buddy can help you back to your car, or run to get help. If you do not have a partner to run with, there are trail running meetups and groups across the nation that are always welcoming to new runners.
Leave a Note
If you opt to run solo, tell a friend, or at the very least, leave a note in a visible place. It might sound like overkill, but accidents are unpredictable, and this small preventative measure has saved lives.
Know your Route
Don’t set off on a run without knowing where you’re going. Nps.gov is a great resource for national park trails, and usatf.org is very helpful for both finding and mapping new routes.
Bring a Cellphone
This is an advantage that runners just a decade or two ago didn’t have. Make sure your phone is fully charged in case you need to call for help. If your trail is shown on Google Maps, consider downloading a map of the area in case you lose service.
Bring Plenty of Food and Water
In addition to pre-hydrating, bring 5-10 ounces of water per 15 minutes of runtime, as well as a sports drink to keep your electrolytes up. If you plan to be out for longer than an hour, bring some energy gels, a granola bar, or fruit.
Research the Weather
Beginners should avoid hitting the trails if there’s a decent chance of rain. Keep an eye out for elevation changes too – if you’re doing a long climb, remember that temperature will drop 3+ degrees per thousand feet increase in elevation – dress accordingly!
Know Local Wildlife
If you’re running in bear country, know the difference between black/brown/grizzly bears, and how to respond to each. Venomous snakes inhabit all 48 contiguous states in the U.S., so don’t be afraid to make a little noise as you run to alert them to your presence. That may sound counter-intuitive, but snakes do NOT like being snuck up on.
Be Conservative with Estimates on Time
Don’t rely on distance alone when planning out the timing for your run. Even advanced trail runners may only cover six miles in an hour. Beginners should be shooting for about four miles an hour.
Change your Gait
Ditch that easy, loping style you use on the road – for trail running, keep your steps short, high, and light to stay on your feet.
Watch where you’re Going
It’s tempting to look anywhere but your feet when surrounded by nature, but keep an eye on what’s coming up in the next 10 to 15 feet. There are tons of opportunities to trip or twist and ankle on the trails, so stay vigilant.
Stick to the tips above, and you can enjoy all the gorgeous benefits of trail running while also staying safe!