Trail running can provide a great alternative to your daily run courses. There are plenty of reasons why trails running can become a part of your training—for starters, trail running works different muscles and can be challenging in different way from road running. Here are a few things to expect as you begin your trail discoveries.

  • Times go out the window. An eight-mile trail run might add 20 to 30 minutes to the same distance on the roads. You’ve got roots, rocks, and sudden steep climbs that require your focus to navigate. But the fact that times are irrelevant can be liberating. The bottom line is that trails offer more challenging terrain. Allison Macsas, the 2017 Austin Marathon champ, used to spend most of her time on the roads and track, but now does much of her training on trails, and feels that it’s helped her whole outlook on training. “It’s forced me to really loose up,” she said.
  • Run Safely. While the challenges of trail running are fun, you need to take the new terrain into consideration. For example, when navigating rock-strewn trails, you’ll need to pick your feet

    Trail running can offer great variety to your regular training.

    up more to avoid tripping and falling. Veteran trail runner (and Hardrock 100 finisher) Joe Prusaitis describes the technique of running over rocky surfaces as “Like you stepping over hot coals.” Trail running requires a kind of Zen-like attention so that as you’re flying through the woods, you are aware of roots, twists and turns, and understand when to exercise caution.

  • Be in the moment. Many runners wear headphones to distract themselves from the effort of exercise. But on trails, you’ll want to leave those behind. You’ll want to have all your senses activated, and that includes hearing. We’ve all heard the term “mindfulness,” and trail running can be thought of as mindful running. In other words, it encourages you to be in the moment.
  • Are Trail Races for you? Texas (and Austin) offer a number of trail racing options, so once you’re comfortable running trails, you can expand your racing repertoire. The longer ones, say 50K or more, can be a fun way to race. And those longer ones have really great aid stations with everything from cookies to PB & J sandwiches to help you along.

So if you’re stuck in a rut of the same old work-out routes day after day, why not escape with Austin’s vast network of trail, options?

Upcoming Races: Sunday, December 31. Rockin’ Resolution Race 20M, 10M, 5K at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock. Races start at 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Monday, January 1 at 9:00 a.m.,  Kickin’ It 5K at Wallace Middle School, 1500 Center Street in Kyle.