Trail running is my favorite escape. Something about being in the fresh air with my feet cruising over the dirt and rocks makes me feel strong and free. I haven’t always been a trail runner though. I didn’t discover the joys of trail running until I moved to Arizona about five years ago. I quickly discovered that trail running is a whole new challenge. I enjoyed the sport independently for several years and finally ventured into trail racing at the Flagstaff Marathon last year. You’re in for an amazing run!
I have a few tips if you’re new to the sport:
1. Throw out your road pace
Take a normal road pace for you, multiply it by 1.5 (9 min/mile x 1.5 = 13.5 min/mile) and that’s a pretty reasonable expectation for your trail pace. Then take that new number and throw it away because trails are dynamic and your pace is going to vary a lot. Learn to listen to your body and just know that even though the time is slower, you are still getting the workout you need to succeed in a trail race. Be kind to yourself, walk if you need to, and appreciate the hills, rocks, tight switchbacks, and uneven terrain that make trail running so special even though they slow you down a little.
2. Explore and train on trails as much as possible
Trail running is a refreshing change from the monotony of road running. Your gait on the trail is going to vary a lot as you navigate your steps. Overall, this is a lot better for your joints in the long run (pun intended) because the motions are less repetitive. However, it will take time to adjust as you strengthen your stabilizer muscles. If you are brand new to the sport, start by alternating trail and road runs and then slowly incorporate more trail miles as you get closer to race day.
3. Don’t underestimate the elevation
The Flagstaff Marathon is entirely over 8,000 ft. Drink lots of extra water! Even though the air at the Nordic Center may feel cooler, the altitude makes the air very dry and you will lose more moisture than you normally would. Listen to your body, take breaks, and consider medical attention if you start to feel unusually short of breath, dizzy, nauseous, or like your heart is uncomfortably racing or pounding.
4. Unplug your earbuds
This is mostly for your safety, but you should enjoy the sounds of the wilderness, too! While training on trails and during the race, you will need to hear what is going on around you. Traffic can get tricky when everyone is using the same narrow trail, and this is especially important if the trail is multi-use (horses, mountain bikes, etc.). Keep your ears open so that you can communicate with fellow runners and other trail lovers.
5. Stop to enjoy the views!
One of the best parts about trail running is getting to explore some beautiful places only accessible by trail. Enjoy. You have earned the amazing views and scenery. Take pictures if you want and don’t feel guilty about it. Have an amazing race!
Our final race will take place September 15, 2018 and our registration is nearly full. If you are thinking about signing up for the Flagstaff Marathon, we strongly encourage you to do it sooner than later. Sign up now!