Running has become an increasingly popular fitness regimen for many Filipinos today. With a pair of running shoes and your favorite course, it’s easy to pick up as a hobby. With seemingly no end to the abundance of fun runs and marathons loaded with gimmicks (color explosions, superhero costumes, or even zombies), there are those who are into running off-road on unpaved trails and uneven terrain.
Running off-road is actually excellent training for runners since it gives more emphasis on the technical aspects of the sport. Compared to track running where it’s easier to pick up the pace due to the absence of obstacles and rough terrain, running off-road gets runners on their toes and it shortens their strides through technical sections, teaching them the proper running gait and develops their balance through winding sections at the same time. Track running also focuses more on speed and leg power while trail running pushes the runners to focus more on their bodies rather than their pace, which is very helpful in improving their active recovery (aids in muscle memory, builds the aerobic system, improves muscle endurance and increase speed of recovery). Running off-road also gives them a chance to explore and enjoy the different trails that are often set on scenic locations.
In 2014, Filipinos were treated to the first-ever City Trail Manila – an annual off-road running event that takes their runners to some of the city’s challenging and exciting hidden paths. It introduces a new running experience to the city’s avid runners – one that helps polish their running mechanics and at the same time, encourages them to discover and appreciate Manila’s finest scenic locations. City Trail Manila is a great event for you to appreciate the full experience of trail running. Before your first run, here are a few tips to get you started.
While trail runs are almost always set in locations that would make you say “Yes” in a heartbeat, it’s important to distinguish if the trail you’re about to run through is technical or non-technical.
Non-technical trails are generally easier to go through since they are set on paved, gravel or dirt roads. On the other hand, technical trails are usually associated to trail runs since they are set on narrow, dirt or rocky paths that offer a variety of challenges.
With a more challenging course that features uphills, road obstacles that would require you to perform side-to-side movements and uneven terrain, you can expect that your runs would be slower than your usual. Trail runs, after all, is not about how fast you can run but how you feel when you run.
By shortening your strides and having your weight over your feet most of the time, you could learn how to react quickly and maintain your balance throughout the trail. Your core and stabilizer muscles will also receive a great workout when you’re doing trail runs compared to running on paved roads.
Trail runners should know how to approach the course. When passing through uphills, it’s always best to walk to the peak to conserve energy and make up for the time by running on your way down. Trail running can help you become a smarter runner – one that equips you with the right technique that can help you run longer and at the same time, get to know your body mechanics better.
Be reminded that in trail runs, you’re not running an even and straight course. It’s always important to watch out for road obstacles that are potentially hazardous so you could avoid them. It also teaches your body to be more responsive to your environment while you’re doing your runs.
Rocks, bushes and in case you’re passing through streams or rivers, slippery rocks and roots are a few of the things you need to watch out for when running trails. Note that it’s better to walk directly through the water instead of risking a potentially disastrous fall from slipping on a wet rock. After all, it’s trail running – you’re supposed to get dirty and wet!
As you learn how to pace your runs properly through trail runs, it’s also important to learn how to space yourself properly from other runners. In any run, it’s normal for runners to suddenly increase their pace, but in trail runs, sudden side-to-side movements can sometimes surprise other runners and cause a collision or an accident. Proper spacing can give a runner more freedom to move and when it comes to running trails, movement is key to almost everything.
While it’s important to enjoy and be comfortable with your runs, safety is still your priority.
It’s cliché to hear this in any sport but running trails can sometimes expose you to uncontrollable instances. You are being sent into the wild after all. It’s always better to run with a friend, have a map in hand and of course, bring an ever-reliable first aid kit especially since you’re dealing with the outdoors. Getting to know the course before running it can also help you avoid hazards that are pretty easy to miss by being too carefree. By the end of the day, you may enjoy getting down and dirty with your trail runs but you never when you get injured.