Running has always been part of my life. Back in elementary school my brother and I started running during the summer with the Indiana University summer track program and we really haven’t stopped since. Back then my definition of running only included racing on a track. In my old age, I’ve broadened that definition to include road running, trail running, scrambling, and really any form of movement on one’s feet. My definition might be wrong, but I’ve learned to love being in the mountains calling everything “running” makes it simple for me. I’ve been asked to give a few tips specifically about trail running but I think these thoughts can be applied to all forms of “running.”
If it’s not fun I won’t do it (at least not for very long).
Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m a competitive person. That means I’ve been drawn to racing, trying to beat my friends’ times up local peaks, or at least making my friends hurt/work hard when we’re out for the day. In order to gain and maintain fitness, I’ve always tried to make training fun. For me, that means training with friends. If I’m working out solely to work out, I typically get bored and won’t get as much work in. Sometimes that means I’ll forego what I think would be ideal for the day in order to have fun. This leads to #2.
With endurance sport, I believe consistency is key. Easier said than done. As I type this, I’m in a lower leg splint and will be non-weight bearing for the next month due to a stress fracture in my foot. A month off is less beneficial than a month of easy running or a month of cross-training. Being able to listen to your body and know when to push hard and when to back off is difficult but key.
Variety, kind of
I like variety in my training. Variety in location, variety in types of workouts, and variety in training partners. Changing things up can be motivating and it often allows me to find a little enjoyment in the routine. With that said, I also enjoy some repetition. Becoming familiar with a trail or a running route can allow me to turn my brain off and just go run. It also allows me to compare current efforts to previous efforts and get a feel for how fit I am or how fast a workout is. A good mix of mindless days and exciting new days has worked well for me.
Having a goal in mind has provided me with more motivation than anything. I love being in the mountains and I love dreaming up ideas of what I think would be cool. What I think is cool isn’t the same as what other people think is cool but that’s irrelevant. If I can find what speaks to me, then I’ll be willing to squeeze in a few extra miles. Or get up early to get a run in before work. Once there’s a goal in mind, I’ve also been able to tailor my training to that goal. That’s a subject for another day but training for a sub-15 hour WURL is very different than training for a sub 40 min Grandeur. The one constant is the direction and focus coming up with a goal provides.
One of the things I love about running is simplicity. There really aren’t that many gear needs. I’ll start with shoes. I run anything technical in La Sportiva Mutants. They have a good sticky rubber that make them my go-to for scrambling or rock hopping. For longer smoother trails I chose the Sportiva Karacal which just has a little more cushioning. Shoes are hard to get right though. Everyone’s feet are different. Everyone’s mechanics are different. You’ll hear some people claim you must run in minimalist shoes. Others say the exact opposite. I think finding a pair of shoes that fits well and is comfortable is the first step. Once you find that you can fine-tune the performance by focusing on the lug pattern on the sole, the type of rubber, and the amount of padding. In my book, fit and comfort should come first.
Like shoes, fit and comfort are my top priorities. I like a pack that doesn’t bounce around and chafe my armpits and lower back. The Grivel Mountain Runner Slim works well for me. Apparently, it’s designed for slim people and women. I’m not sure if that’s me but it is light, sits nicely on my back, and has just enough room for some liquids, a few snacks, and a light jacket. Most of my daily runs don’t require much more than that.
This is simple. The lighter, brighter, and longer-lasting the better. Headlamps nowadays are amazing. Just about any company makes a good light. I’ve been using the Silva Trail Runner Free. One thing to keep in mind is battery life. If you’re going to be out all night or multiple nights having a way to recharge, or a spare set of batteries is key!