Trail Running Safely

by Alison McIrvin
Trail Running Safely

Trail running is growing in popularity just as hiking is. However, even the most experienced road runners will tell you that trail running can seem like an entirely different sport. One issue that is less of an issue with road running is personal safety due to the backcountry challenges as well as varying and challenging terrain. There is no need to shy away from trail running as long as you consider safety precautions and take care to implement them.

  • Good form translates to safety: On a typical run, you don’t need to worry about catching your toe on a root or rock when you tire at the end of your run on uneven and unpredictable terrain. It is a different story on the trail. Take care to lift your feet and shorten your stride. When running downhill, keep your center of balance lower and arms looser down at your sides for stability.
  • Let someone know where you are: Leave a note, send a text, or even post to social media. If you should need help, people need to know where to go.
  • Consider trail running shoes as opposed to regular runners: They are engineered for more support and the soles have traction designed for the trail environment.
  • Know your surroundings: This is not the time to wear ear buds. Be alert and oriented to the route. Trails tend to look similar and even on a trail you run frequently, it can be easy to take a wrong turn or miss a landmark. Be alert and take mental notes as you go along of particular trees or large boulders.
  • Know your route: study a map ahead of time and carry a copy with you, especially if you are trying a new trail system.
  • Adapt constantly: The trails change often and repeatedly, you cannot expect to hit your stride and rhythm as you do on road runs. It is a completely different beast and you need to adjust accordingly.
  • Be ready for the hills: they come steep and long and you may need to actually “power hike” some of the steeper ones instead of running.
  • Protect yourself with pepper spray or other easily carried form of personal protection.
  • Wear bright colors, especially if it is hunting season.
  • Utilize a fanny pack or small backpack for extra food and water just in case your 1 hr. run takes some unexpected turns and you are out longer. It needs to be big enough for a basic first aid kit or the 10 essentials.
  • Have your cell with you for safety: Better yet, download a running app and set it going not only to log your run, but as a safety back up if you should get lost.
  • Bears: although bear attacks on runners or hikers are extremely rare, it is a factor you should consider:
    • Bears would much rather run the other way, so making noise, clapping whooping hollering or blow a whistle to send teddy packing.
    • If you run with a do, keep it leashed since most dogs will aggravate an otherwise timid bear.
    • Bears are less likely to bother groups, so run with a buddy.
    • Avoid running trails at dawn or dusk when bears are more active.

By no means should this post discourage or frighten you from the wonderful world of trail running. Just take these tips into consideration and stay safe as you put on the miles in a wonderful and fresh new environment.

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