How To Choose Trails for Trail Running

Choosing trails for running is not a difficult process, but it does require some research.  There are desirable things one should look for in a good running trail and a few things to avoid.  In looking for a trail, a runner should keep in mind his specific needs and skill level.

Safety is always important.  In choosing a running trail safety should be a top consideration.  Isolated trails are not the best choice, especially if you're running when few people are out.  Trails with a lot of unevenness and holes can cause injury and should be avoided.  Well-lit trails in more populated areas are the best choice.  A very busy trail can impede running; however, your running schedule can be timed around the trail's peak traffic.  A paved trail is not essential, although it is preferable in wet weather.  Extra care is required on gravel trails because they can be slippery.

Another consideration when picking a trail for running is the length and terrain.  Some trails have mile markers and others are certified as 5k, 10k, or other lengths.  It is a good choice, if you are concerned about how far you are running, to pick a trail that is measured.  The terrain of a trail is also an important factor. Trails with hills and climbs will be more difficult to run.  A runner should pick terrain he can handle and be aware of how many uphill areas are on a trail.  Steep climbs can be both an asset and a hindrance.  They will make a run more challenging, but will also considerably slow down a run.

Running trails that cross busy intersections are usually not the best choice.  Intersections interrupt the run and can be a safety hazard.  Running trails that have bridges over roads or which pass under roads are safer.  Well-established crossings with lights are fairly safe, but can still cause interruptions.  Trails inside of parks are a good choice for uninterrupted running.

Finding a trail to choose for running is an easy process.  The first thing to do is check local park and greenway websites.  Often, area trails will be listed with information on location and length. A runner should look over the area a trail is in, check for the safety requirements, look at how it is surfaced, and make note of the terrain to make an informed choice.  It may also be beneficial to ask other runners which trail they prefer, to help narrow the selection.


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