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Tips for your first trail running adventure

The first Saturday in June is National Trails Day, a day hosted by the American Hiking Society and focused on service for hometown trails. If you’re already a trail running aficionado, this is a great opportunity to find a local event and put some sweat equity into improving a trail near you. If you haven’t dipped your toe into trail running yet, this is your official invitation to check it out! I’ve been trail running for a long time and love how it both complements road running and gets me out to beautiful places. If you want to give it a try, here are a few tips to help make your first run a success:


A woman runs on a trail through greenery
Running on local Austin trails
  1. Wear the right shoes! Trails can be rocky, sandy, damp, hilly, or more. Before you head out, it’s a good idea to understand what kind of surface you’ll be running on because your road shoes may not be appropriate for the terrain. I run most often on rocky Central Texas trails, so having a stable shoe with good traction is incredibly helpful. Your local running shoe store can help you find the right gear.

  2. Find a trail. You can use tools like the Strava heatmap or the Trail Finder from the Trail Run Project to get started. You can look for things like elevation and terrain and make sure you understand what you are getting into. 

  3. Know that your paces will be different. With change in terrain come changes in pace. My easy pace on rocky, technical trails is slower than my pace on gentle, more groomed trails, which is slower than my pace on the roads. Don’t worry about your watch - focus on what’s around you instead! If you are tied to metrics, simply set an overall time on feet goal - say 30 to 60 minutes to get started.

  4. Expect some muscle soreness. Running on trails works different muscles than running on the roads - it takes more effort to stay upright on technical terrain! Your running technique may also shift, depending on terrain. It’s common to use a shorter stride and you’ll likely want to keep a close eye on the trail in front of you to avoid any obstacles. Don’t be surprised if you’re a bit sore the day after your first trail run.

  5. Safety first! There are additional safety elements to consider when trail running. You may be going into areas where cell phone reception isn’t a sure thing or where you are the only person around. It’s a good idea to run with a friend and during the daylight as you get used to your local trails.


Trail running can be such a fun way to explore your hometown or places further afield. What are your favorite trail running spots? 




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