My love for running started on trails, now I almost can’t bare to do road runs unless I really have to, (which turns out I do now that I’m being a tad more strategic with this years Ironman training!)
You might wonder why you would bother training on trails when all your races are on the roads, and generally pretty flat! That may be true – it is for me, despite having only really trained on trails for the last few years, I have only ever actually done one trail race – ironically it was during my year living in London with very few convenient trails to train on! Is the word trails loosing meaning to you yet?
So, what’s the point? All science aside and from my own personal experience, the only marathons I have ever done I have achieved a sub 3:30 time on, all of which were trained for on nothing but trails, at a very slow pace. I read all of the time that you need to be on the track doing speed sessions when you are training for a marathon, you need tempo runs etc. but I spent most of my runs (generally only 2 a week), doing tough, hilly, muddy trail runs at 9-10 min/mile pace – no speed there!
Trail running is harder than road running – sure, its probably slower, but the undulations and different terrains make it significantly more challenging! The constant variations in terrain help to build your fitness and strength, which will show when you make it to the race on the road!
Trail running has the benefit of changing your running gait and forcing you to work on our balance, get on your toes, and activate and condition the ancillary muscle groups in our legs and core that provide stabilization, and take the load off the main muscle groups used for forward motion. Not using those other muscles can mean our main ones end up over working and taking the load, which naturally leads to injury – a runner’s worst nightmare!
The impact is much softer landing for your legs and trails slow you down. Runners can be guilty of always pushing it and never really doing the necessary recovery sessions (I blame Strava!), however, you don’t really have much choice on the trails.
Aside from all that, it’s so much more enjoyable and scenic then running along side buildings and cars, you get to places you wouldn’t normally see. Let me know if this inspired you to hit the trails – unfortunately I can’t take responsibility for any new trainers purchased (I recommend Saloman Speed Cross), nor the state you will be in, covered in mud!