Running our technical trails requires technique
Running on Dirt
It doesn’t take long to notice that our trails, when not buried in snow, are not your average running trails. They’re littered with sharp rocks, roots, low tree branches and flowing creeks, to name only a few obstacles. If you want to run confidently and fast on these trails, you have to learn some key tricks.
Take it slow. With early season running, chances are your training has been anything but technical. Once you start braving the rocky terrain again, make sure you keep the pace mellow. Shoot for about 75 percent of your normal workout effort. You’ll gain confidence as you begin to recognize what is coming rather than being surprised by that unsuspecting rock jutting out.
You’ll move faster on the downhills, so be aware of the trail ahead. I try to look three to four steps ahead of my feet landing on the footing that I’ve already mapped out 2 seconds earlier. With your weight slightly back, you’ll have better control over your stride. Over-striding will ruin that trail picture and potential cause a misstep. Loose gravel requires an even shorter stride and lower center of gravity.
May trail shoes have a lot more cushion built into them, raising me off the trail even more. This area of minimalist shoes are great for this terrain. They keep you low to the ground and more in tune with each step. Besides, when you role your ankle, it has less of distance to role. I wear the La Sportiva Crosslite 2. It falls somewhere between the minimalist shoe with a bit of cushion still in there.
I always preach up. Running uphill forces you to shorten your stride and work on your leg strength and build your stamina for the longer runs. By doing hill repeats, think 2-3 minutes up with a minute recovery. You’ll be working hard but going slow enough that all the trail obstacles will be very visible to you.
By varying the types of workouts you do on the trails, you will become stronger, less fatigued and, heaven forbid, you wont get bored. You’ll need a little bit of everything out there. The long, slow days are critical, followed by fartleks (Swedish for speed play, a random mix of easy runs and bursts of speed), tempos … you get the idea.
When you get tired or are climbing hills, some runners tend to lean forward at the waist. Well, you’re shrinking your gas tank, rather, reducing the amount of oxygen you’re going to take in. Make sure you don’t compromise that because you’ll slow to a crawl in no time. Besides, good posture while running helps keep your hips aligned, with better foot placement and better trail awareness. This topic alone can go on for days, so if you have further questions on posture, send me a question or talk to you physical therapist.
Once you confidence has increased, running at night takes it one step further. Youand#8217;ll still need to keep it slow because you canand#8217;t see too far ahead. To remedy that, I like the Pezel Tikka XP. It puts out a great amount of light and it has the option of a rechargeable battery. There is something surreal about being on the trails at night.
With each step on the trail youand#8217;ll become a stronger runner and youand#8217;ll be more comfortable on those rocky trails. When the time comes youand#8217;ll be able to bomb down Shirley Canyon with ease. Even better, youand#8217;ll be able to run trail races in the Bay Area as if they are on a road.
and#8212; Peter Fain is a local trail runner who competes regularly in regional trail races and snowshoe runs in the winter. He may be contacted at email@example.com.