Trail running guide for beginners: How to get started

Trail running – no matter your fitness level – is for everyone. No matter how fast or slow you move, this activity can – and will – provide moments of utter joy and pure bliss because of the powerful connection between your body, mind, and the natural space you move through. For me, an hour on the trail is the gift I keep giving.

For many people, the idea of ​​trail running can be a little intimidating. But with a few simple guidelines, it might turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever done.

Our beginner’s guide to trail running explores its benefits, how to get started, and the things you need to make your run as enjoyable as possible.

“Trail running with a friend is fun, but it’s also good safety,” says Sabrina Pace-Humphreys/credit: James Appleton,

What is trail running?

Trail running is a form of combined running, walking – and sometimes even climbing – that takes place in natural environments such as fields, forests, fells and mountains. If you look down and the terrain and what you see is not man-made, you can usually classify it as a trail.

Is trail running harder or easier than road running?

It depends on the track. Running a shaded towpath by a canal on a warm summer day makes the trail run feel easier compared to running on a sidewalk in full sun. But on the other hand, if I’m running fast up the side of a fell or mountain as part of my trail run, it’s going to feel a lot harder than a road run because of the terrain and incline.

Trail running is fundamentally different from road running because of the additional factors you need to consider such as: B. undulating terrain and adapting to conditions/obstacles underfoot. You’re also unlikely to come across a style on any street!

Sabrina Pace-Humphreys trail running in the mountains

There are numerous mental health benefits to trail running/Credit: James Appleton,

What are the benefits of trail running?

The psychological benefits of being outdoors in a natural environment have been proven. There’s no better way to unwind and reconnect with body and mind than through exercise in the countryside. Many new runners suffer injuries and discomfort when they first start running on the road, but overuse injuries are less common because of the flexibility and adaptability that trail running requires all body is strengthened.

Sabrina Pace-Humphreys trail running in the country

Walking is not cheating – the nature of trail running is that it ultimately involves elements of walking due to terrain/credits: James Appleton,

What do I wear for trail running?

Usually the same attire as for any form of exercise – leggings, shorts, t-shirt. You should aim for clothing made of fabric that ‘wicks’ sweat (ie draws it into the outer layer of the fabric). Also, you might want to bring a light waterproof jacket or mid-layer top in case you get cold. The distance you run and the weather conditions should determine your clothing choices.

What do I need for a trail run?

Always carry a fully charged mobile phone for emergencies and make sure you have saved ICE contact details. I also make sure I have a GPS mapping app installed on my device – such as OS Maps app – to refer to when I need orientation. I also run with a light running backpack to store water, a snack, a small medicine kit (plasters, blister plasters, bandages, etc.) and – if necessary – a jacket.

Trail Running Tips: How to get started

  1. Grab itfollow me online and ask questions. If I can’t help you, I know someone who can.
  2. Start small – My motto is “small steps, big steps”. You want to choose a distance that is doable for you and on terrain that is manageable as a new trail runner. Think of your surroundings and the green space around you. You may decide to walk/walk a mile – like I did in the beginning – around the local park. This is a great place to start.
  3. invite a friend – Let your friends know what you’re up to and that they’re welcome if they want to join you. While trail running with others is a great solo activity, it’s also fun—chatting makes the time fly by. For safety reasons, you might also feel better if you run with someone else for the first few days of your trip while exploring new routes.
  4. footwear– If you think you like trail running, then you need a pair of trail shoes. They differ from road trainers (they have more grip). Get advice or visit your local athletic shoe store to see what’s on offer.
  5. Find a lead– So every green space. The local park is a good place to start.
  6. Going is not cheating– The nature of trail running is that it will eventually involve elements of walking due to the terrain. Going doesn’t mean you failed. It means you are reasonable.
  7. Buy a local map/use an online navigation app– Get to know your location. You will be amazed to find hidden paths you never knew existed! Or use a navigation app like that OS Maps app this makes it easy to get your bearings, create a route and follow it.
  8. mobile– Make sure it is fully charged. Why? In an emergency and also to take great photos!
  9. CE– Carry something that clearly shows your emergency contact details. I have a laminated map on the back of my phone case.
  10. meal– I like to have an emergency snack with me. carbohydrate rich. A Snickers bar works for me.
  11. hydration – Depending on your distance. I always like to have some water with me, just in case.
  12. Join Black Trail Runners– We are a community and campaign driven charity aiming to diversify trail running. If you want to take part – no matter what skin color – you are very welcome. Find out more on the Black trail runners website

in the sabrina‘s new book Black Sheep: A Story of Rural Racism, Identity and Hope, Among other important topics, she talks about her career, her first trail run and how she is working to make the sport more diverse and inclusive. Buy it here.

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