I bar hopped my way around several sports during my twenties. Admittedly I usually stayed for more than just a drink, only giving up climbing, cycling and road running once forcefully ejected due to injury or excess.
Trail running with all its variety is where I have managed to keep my focus for several years now. The secret I am slowly learning is to look beyond mere fitness goals and achievement. Here’s some thoughts on going the distance.
When new to trail running, the thought of putting on a number and being competitive across fields, through woods and over mountains can be intimidating….Until you do it that is.
Pick a race distance that you have completed in training. Spend two-three months replicating the terrain and elevation you will tackle. And then run it so hard that you’ll need help taking your socks off at the finish line.
Going into a race with massive commitment will prove a refreshing reset to stale paced training runs, and will show you what you are capable of. It will also introduce you to other members of the community.
So you’ve run a few races, have some scores to settle and have battle scars to show for it. Very quickly the internet and your new friends seem fit to explode with ideas about how you can race longer, further from home and more frequently than ever. Time now to disconnect.
Many trail runners burn out in the first few years from racing hard and training light. This often leads to long term exhaustion, frustration and eventually slipping away from the sport.
Run trails because you want to forget about work, not because it feels like it. Run trails with people who make you feel happy, and who always fist-bump or high-five at the end of it.
If you do want to jump back into racing after a few months, you might be surprised to find you are at least as strong as where you left off.
If you’ve been trail running for a couple of years and haven’t been injured, it’s either because you have been very smart about your training or it’s in the mail.
You can help avoid injury by completing recovery runs, as well as tackling varied terrain at different speeds, providing the stimulation to allow your body to get stronger.
Better still, tear yourself away from one of your weekly trail runs, replacing it with strength training. Press ups, sit ups and plank exercises will strengthen your core for those dynamic and asymmetric strides taken when running on uneven ground.
Occasionally run the long way home when the weather is nasty and keep training with a head torch when the nights draw in.
Get out early on Saturday before life gets in the way (hangover regardless). And try tackling terrain where you have to use your hands, or signing up for a challenge that gives you night sweats.
As you recalibrate your brain so extreme discomfort now registers as mild inconvenience, you will increase your capacity for ever greater challenges. The positive effects will be experienced well beyond trail running.
The most serious mistake you can make with trail running is taking it all too seriously. Make sure you do it for yourself, and try leaving your watch, phone and Apps like Strava turned off sometimes.
Getting back to basics and learning to use a map and compass brings new independence and confidence to your running. Your new capabilities can be stretched further by bringing another person into the sport and by shepherding them to places they wouldn’t imagine their feet could take them.
And never forget your old local trails. Dash out and run them in jeans, or after a beer if it makes you happy. Life is short. There are only so many trails you can run before closing time.
Motivation – Ordnance Survey custom map 1:25,000 scale – Order a map with your home at the centre and your personalised picture on the front. The number of local trails or cut-throws you haven’t run is bound to surprise. Pin it up and highlight each new route you tackle. £16.99
Hold yourself together – Compressport TRAIL V2 Men’s Shorts – These compression shorts are like body armour for your nether regions, keeping you well-supported and warm. A durable and quality product that stands up to years of gnarly trails. From £53.40
Trail snack of the week – wasabi peas – Add a zippity-zing to your long run fuelling strategy. Flavour fatigue is a thing of the past with these savoury bar snacks. 100g £1.30