The Running Shop's Essential Tips for Trail Running
Anyone who knows me, or comes into the shop (as I have a tendency to rabbit on about it) will know that I am at my very happiest when I'm out on the trails and hills. There's definitely something very liberating about running off-road. Pace is not so important. there's not the continual need to check your GPS watch and you get the chance to take in some amazing scenery. Staying in the North East of Scotland we definitely are blessed with an amazing playground which really caters to everyone's needs, from light trails through to highly technical hill running.
1. Where to run?
If you're new to off road running, then do a bit of research to find out what's new. Ask around for advice, check local Facebook groups (such as Bennachie Running), ask at your local Running shop!! Even from the centre of Aberdeen there's some close trails nearby including the Coastal path from Nigg up to Cove, River Don/Grandholm, Beach (North side), Hazlehead Park (through to Countesswells Forest), Kirkhill Forest to name just a few.
2. Join a club
There's lots of great clubs in the North East who are big into their trail and hill running. Great place to start for tips, routes and companionship on the trails. Can definitely recommend The Cosmics, Insch Trail Running Club, Stonehaven Running Club and Garioch Road Runners (lots of off road runners in there as well!!) but there's loads of other clubs and groups which will have trail elements.
3. Safety First!
Once you start heading out onto the trails you probably should be mindful of a few things. Always best to let someone know where you're heading off to and expected time you'll be out. Take your phone with you just in case of emergencies as well. I know a lot of people like running with music, but be careful when you're out if you have your earbuds in that you're aware of what's around you, i.e., cyclists, horses, other runners. To be honest, it's best leaving the earphones at home and just enjoy the sounds of nature. You can beat it. Having said that, when I am out on my own, I do use my AfterShokz bone conducting headphones which give you the best of both worlds. Great music quality but your ears are open and you can hear what's round about you.
Yes, there are lots of different types of shoes. What we would always advise is to come in to your local running shop(!!), and have a chat. Have a think as to what you would be doing, and from that it can give an idea of the type of shoe you'd be best placed with. It might be that you need something really grippy, or perhaps an all rounder which can do a bit of both trail and road. You may be thinking about targeting an ultra so cushioning may be a requirement. Whatever you're doing, there will be something which will suit your needs. Like with all running shoes though, because everyone is different, it's always best to come in to your local running shop to test them out.
With trail running, sometimes it can take longer than expected so it's important that you take a means of keeping you hydrated on these long runs. There's loads of options from hand held bottles, to belts to race vests and back packs. Again, similar to the shoes, always best to come in and have a try and see what works best for you.
6. How to improve your trail running skills
Well, to be honest, it's like everything. Practice makes perfect. It is good to work on getting a good, strong core, so plenty of strength and conditioning work, including lunges, squats and using a wobble board is good for increasing your foot and ankle stability.
Get used to keeping your arms a little wider, which you'll need for extra balance. This is useful as the terrain will be uneven and at times you will be hopping and skipping over boulders and branches so balance is key.
There is definitely an art in downhill running, but it will come with experience and some confidence. It does take a fair amount of concentration, and try and keep looking ahead so that you can anticipate the next step. If you focus too much on your feet, you'll find that you end up having to adjust your movement considerably to navigate obstacles which come on you quickly. As you go down hill, for gradual descents, slightly lean forward and let the hill pull you down. It can be difficult as you'll find that your momentum starts to build up. This is where in time, the confidence factor will kick in though.
7. Enjoy the trip!
Trail running can produce some of the most amazing natural highs you can get and we definitely recommend it. Can definitely seem more like playing at times, and what better playground could you want for than the one we have here in the North East of Scotland.
Once you get the taste for it, you may want to enter some races and there's loads to choose from. Check out our race diary for local hill races or if you fancy something a bit longer why not think about stepping up to an ultra. You'll find a lot of good information here on the Scottish Ultra Marathons Series website
- Andrew Gordon