Of all the physical activities, running is considered to be the favorite among fitness enthusiasts. With that being the case, a trail runner prefers to run in secluded areas, such as through the hills and on unpaved natural terrain.
Trail runners prefer this activity to stay away from busy roads and don’t need to carry any gear. Unlike hiking, trail runners do not require a navigation support system or cell phones, as the paths are a defined surface.
Recent studies show a steady increase in several clubs and races organized for trail running enthusiasts. According to the statistics provided by the International Trail Running Association (ITRA), there has been a significant increase in the number of trail events conducted worldwide and the participants in them. Keep reading to learn how to run trails safely while also having fun!
Things to Consider When Going for a Trail Run
While passionate followers promote and swear by this physical activity, you must be aware of the associated risks.
Running is an activity that should be done on a solid surface. However, the surface is uneven when it comes to trail running. The uneven surface poses a risk of injuries and even leads to sprains. So, select the location carefully, look for all possibilities, and take necessary safety precautions before starting your run.
Do you want to enjoy pleasant weather while burning your calories? It is vital to do a weather check before you decide to go for a run. In case you get stuck in the rain, and the ground is all wet, you are bound to meet with bad falls and fractures. On the other hand, it paves the way for over sweating and dehydration if it is too sunny. Also, not to forget, you would become easy prey to wild animals.
As mentioned in the prior paragraph, bears and mountain lions are the primary threat to trail runners. Remember, you will run off the usual terrain, and you need to take the necessary precautions. Wild animals can attack you any time, and you must be well-geared to protect yourself.
Select the site where you wish to run, where you can get decent phone reception, and that which is easily accessible to others. The reason is that, in case you need help, you should be able to reach out to someone with a yell or a click of a button.
Safety Tips for Running on Trails
All physical activities have specific prerequisites to be fulfilled, and we should abide by them. Keeping this in mind, here are a few safety tips that you should keep in mind while planning an adventurous trail run.
Plan your route and follow it
Be it overnight camping or trail running, it is essential to plan out your route and stick to it till the end. Good planning would help avoid attacks from the wild animals and in completing the run. Last-minute changes would lead to confusion and poor coordination between other members, eventually leading to many detours and delays. So, it is always advised to stick to the plan drafted and follow it to the T.
Run or hike with someone else
“One stands for sorrow, and two is for joy,” yes, it’s true in this regard. Always plan for your run or hike with someone who could always give you company. The company you select should share the same interests, and you should enjoy his/her companionship.
Although, at times, going for a long run alone is therapeutic. But when it comes to trail running, it is advised to take someone along with you. But, if you still plan on going on a lone trip, you should always share your plan with your family and near ones. Also, don’t forget to carry pepper spray along with you. Disasters and threats are better fought with a companion than fighting it alone in the middle of nowhere.
Have a common plan
As suggested earlier, it is always good to go hiking or trail running with someone else. And in this case, you should plan your trip well. While planning, it is important to share ideas and views and stick to the plan so that both parties are in sync without any regrets.
Irrespective of both of you starting at the same point of time or not, you should have a backup plan of the trip details and the route to follow. In case you are unable to catch up with your companion or get delayed due to unforeseen events, you at least know that you have someone to back you up and get that required help on time.
Don’t forget to carry your cell phones by assuming that there might not be any cell service around you. These days you get reception off the roads as well. Hence, carrying a cell phone is one of the safety precautions you must stick to, as the activated GPS would help locate the missing person easily and quickly with the last available signal.
Bring trail safety equipment
Going on a trail run is very different from your regular morning runs. Carrying proper gear and wearing suitable clothes and the best trail running shoes play a crucial role in completing a successful run. While doing any physical activity, it is essential to carry appropriate gear. Here is a list of the necessary equipment you must carry along without fail:
- Cell phones
- Water bottles/hydration packs
- Pepper spray
- Energy bars
- First-aid supplies
- Windproof jackets
- Backpack or vest packs
Bring a headlamp
Carrying a headlamp always comes in handy. You never know when the weather would change from a sunny day to a cloudy one. A headlamp would help you navigate the trail even if you are covered by bushes and looking for a way out. The headlamp also comes to the rescue by helping others to identify you or your location.
In case you are stranded due to a bad ankle sprain or unable to move at all. Your other companion(s) can quickly locate you in the bushes after sunset without you having to attract the attention of the wild animals. All you have to do is turn on the headlamp to help others locate your location instead of shouting, which would gain the unwanted attention of wild creatures around you. So, don’t forget to carry your headlamp at any point.
Check the weather
Keeping a tab on the weather forecast is crucial, as you don’t want to get stuck on the trails with wet ground beneath you (unless you’re wearing waterproof trail running shoes) or a scorching sun over your head. A good trail run requires good ambiance, such as pleasant weather, which should preferably be neither too hot nor too cold. Without a weather check, you might end up on a trail with slippery ground, which could turn dangerous and lead to accidents, which may even turn fatal.
Without a weather check, you will end up dressing wrongly. You might have dressed up for a sunny day, but then a sudden change in weather such as cold winds could spoil your run. For instance, it will be difficult for you to run in light clothes and shorts if it turns cold all of a sudden. This would eventually bring an end to your run unless you’re wearing proper cold-weather running gear. In such situations, you need to carry an extra pair of clothes along with you. Bad weather also attracts wild animals to come out of their dens and hunt for prey, and you might become their food.
Bring extra food and water
It would be best if you always carried water bottles with you. A good run would leave you feeling thirsty. At times you might even become dehydrated and need an energy drink to boost your energy levels to complete the run. Experts advise runners to have good pre-run and post-run food or drinks. It is vital to keep your glucose levels up to complete the planned run, and for that, you should go prepared.
Carry an extra bottle of water. This will come in handy if your partner isn’t carrying water and if he/she feels thirsty. You can always help them and offer them a sip. In other cases, if you have lost track of the map and are searching for a way out, then you need more water/food to survive the extra miles without leaving you hungry or parched. An extra bottle of water always comes in handy at these times too.
Note: Running requires high energy levels. You might have had a good protein shake before starting your run, but you might burn those extra calories easily during the run. So, it is advised to carry an energy bar or a small bite of high caloric food along with you always.
Know the dangers in the area
Always go for a run in known territories and avoid venturing around and exploring the trails without proper research. It is normal for a human being to be interested and curious about roads not taken. But it is advised to curb the urge and stick to a standard, regular route. This would help you avoid getting estranged alone in the wild trails.
As an adult, you should be aware of the dangers of hikes and trails. Although you might have been appropriately equipped with gears to face the situation, you never know what kind of danger awaits you. It is better to play safe instead of trying to act brave and land in trouble.
With good research about the location and considering the previous runners’ feedback, plan your run. This would help you avoid any unnecessary dangers and end the run on a happy note.
Stay alert and aware of your surroundings
Most runners prefer to run listening to music, with headphones on their heads. Listening to music gives them an adrenaline rush, a push to complete the run. But it also diverts their focus from the physical pain. Simultaneously, listening to music can turn dangerous as you won’t hear any surrounding noises, and you may get hurt. Most of the predators attack their prey when they are least attentive and take advantage of the situation.
Ensure to pay attention and keep the volume of the music low so that you can hear the sounds around you. This would help protect yourself from unnecessary dangers (such as wild animals, serial killers, and kidnappers) and keep yourself safe. An excellent way to avoid such situations would be to use only one earbud, which would help you stay alert.
Wear highly visible colors
Wearing bright-colored clothes is as important as carrying the right gear. Bright colors would make you easily visible on the trail and get help soon. The best would be to wear reflective clothing, as they glow in the dark and can be located from a distance.
Always have protective gear packed in your backpack. You never know when they would come in handy. Pay special attention to the gear that would help you handle the wild animals easily. Also, carry equipment for maintaining a bonfire in case you get stuck and have to spend hours in the dark until you get rescued.