Fall In Love With The Ever Evolving Trail Scene
When I first started running I didn’t know much about running or races. I still wouldn’t say that I know a lot. But what I have learned is that I run a lot on the roads but my heart lies on the trails. To me road racing is all the same. A 5k is a 5k is a 5k and same thing for 10ks, but you see far less of those. Things don’t get interesting until you run a half marathon, but then a marathon feels like it sucks all the joy out of it.
I love variety. I love to try new things. When my running begins to feel repetitive and les exciting that is when I less inclined to run. That is why I love trail running.
Courses are always different
In trail running every single event is different. Even if you run the same distance over an over at different events the likelihood that those courses will be significantly different is high. So every 5k you run will be a totally different experience.
Even if you run the same race every year. And you run the same distance at that race every year. There is a good chance that the trail conditions will never be exactly the same. So many different variables go into shaping a trail vs a road. At a road race the surface can basically be dry or wet. Even if the weather is the same every year you show up for the race. Trails have so many factors. The trail may have experienced a lot of different environmental forces to alter it.
Even if it is dry on race day the course could have experienced a lot of rain recently causing the course to still be very muddy and slippery. On the other hand the weather could be excessively dry leading up to race day and the trails are hard and packed down more than normal. And the trails can exist in any state between those two extremes that make the trail experience different every time.
A race may feature the same course year after year. The course may follow the same trails year after year. But those trails will never be exactly the same every year. The trails will always experience erosion that can affect how much dirt to rocks there are. The slope or canter of a trail can shift. Edges can erode away and narrow a trail. Trees can fall and become obstacles. Rocks can become more exposed and create issues. Trails can also be maintained and improved with bridges over water or platforms over muddy sections.
A sometimes fun sometimes not aspect of trail running is that it can be a bit of a guessing game. In road running the goal is to get the course as close to exactly the distance you are planning for as possible. But in trail running setting up a course presents limited options. So distances are approximations. Any race course design is reliant on the trails that exist and often that doesn’t make for a lot of options, so a 5k might be closer to 4 miles. It all depends on what trails exist. And guess what, no one cares.
It also seems at least where I live trail races offer a lot more variety in race distances and types of events. There are all the distances of traditional road races. There are events where you can run more than one distance during the same event. I never saw a 25k until I started running trail races. I just saw a new event come across Ultra Signup that is a 20 mile point to point race that looks fun. Events where there is no set distance but there is a set time instead and you run as many miles as you can or want to are popular. Then there are ultra-marathons of all shapes and sizes.
Just a party in the woods
In trail running the longer and farther you go the bigger the trail party gets. The more time you spend on trails often the more scenic and beautiful it gets. There are opportunities to have experiences out on the trails that you’d never encounter any other way. Many ultra-distance events feed you like you’ve never been fed before while out on the trails. I’ve been at races where they have quesadillas, bacon, potatoes, and/or soup. Stopping to enjoy a bite to eat can be one of the most enjoyable experiences of a long race event. You can also meet some of the best people out there while spending time on the trails together.
Also trail races combine running and nature and that is my favorite part about it. Having a reason to get out into nature. Trail races help expose people to many beautiful places that maybe they wouldn’t have seen before. I know that has been true for me. There have been state parks that I visited for the first time to run a race. I have explored state forests for the first time while I run around the woods with a group of people.
If you like to run but haven’t tried trail running I encourage you to give it a shot. Especially if you are looking for something new to shake up your running routine. You will be surprised how quickly you are sucked in and it becomes all you want to do.
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