Hit the Ground Running
One of the great things about trail running is that you don't need a lot of equipment to do it besides the clothing you normally wear while road running. The few things that you do need are essential for keeping your energy up and maintaining comfort during the run.
- Shoes: Fit is the critical feature here. Look next for durability and an aggressive tread. Some runners prefer wider soles for stability. Chances are your favorite manufacturer makes a trail shoe with many of the same fit characteristics you enjoy in your road runners. Specialized trail shoes are nice, but they're not necessary, especially on dry, smooth trails.
- Staying warm: A wicking top and tights are your best base layers in cold weather. Remember that gloves and a hat or ear band will give you the most warmth for the weight in cool conditions.
- Staying dry: Trail runners love mud, and they sure aren't going to let a little rainfall keep them from their favorite routes. Get a light, well-ventilated rain shell to protect your upper body in nasty weather.
- Packs: When you're going out for anything longer than a half-hour run, it's a good idea to carry some water and other essentials. Fanny packs abound on the market, but you want one with at least one water-bottle holster. Look for a secure but accessible system for holding the bottle, or go with a tube and bladder arrangement that allows on-the-fly hydration. The pack should have room for some snacks and a warm jacket. If you run in extreme weather, make sure the pack has an insulated water-bottle holder.
- Other items: Depending on how far you plan to run and how familiar you are with the terrain, take the following: map of the trail, a small first-aid kit, some money, a way to call home, a hat for sun or rain, and some TP (unless you prefer using leaves).
Topping Your Tank
On long trail runs, you'll probably need to refuel and rehydrate. Treat these marathons more like a long day hike than an after-work training session. Energy snacks such as Gu, PowerBars, or Cliff Bars work well at soothing a case of the wobblies, as will your favorite candy bars and cookies.
If the weather is hot and humid, or if you're working extra hard, mix a sport drink into your water to help prevent cramps. On sizzling summer days, try filling your water bottles within an inch of the top the night before and then freezing them. As they melt, you'll get refreshingly cold water.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication