The benefits of trail running
There are many good reasons, both physical and mental, to go trail running - and Barry Kemp highlights five of the most significant.
Why take up trail running? It's a question many people ponder before giving it a go. I have many friends who are completely dedicated runners, often in local running clubs, who do nothing but run on roads year after year. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that but why not have a look at some juicy off road stuff and see what's on offer...
That one word should be reason enough to ditch the black top and get out onto the rougher stuff. By trail running it doesn't have to be dancing down cliff tops or wading through streams. Any trail will do. By switching from road to trail you'll open your mind and body to a different set of circumstances which can give a more rounded runner as a result.
The physical benefits are surely appealing to a road runner. Pounding hard surfaces all day is not good for the joints. It's the very reason I try to do it as little as possible with my ageing body and creaking joints. Less impact is well received by muscles, joints and ligaments, but so too is the rough surface that leads to strengthening these key components. Having to focus more on your balance by shifting body weight improves core muscles, balance and proprioception.
The psychological benefits of running are well known, with chemicals released to give that natural high. Getting out into nature enhances this feeling further with an element of exploration and being closer to nature. I find it quite satisfying to be running through the Cheviots and come face to face with deer or a fox. Trail running has been prescribed by many as a way of fighting against depression. A large environment - such as running in mountains - can often put problems in perspective.
Something for everyone
People can seek the solitude of trail running for escapism - or find the company of friends can be a motivational factor, there's an event for everyone. Alongside a vast range of competitive trail runs, there are also a plethora aimed at increasing participation and the fun factor. I always say that a run has to be enjoyed no matter how well you did.
The bigger picture
Away from the benefits to the individual of trail running, there are also wider factors to consider. As people become more adventurous, they may spread their wings and try far off places or events. By doing so they are improving the local economy, and this is invaluable in real rural places. A recent study by Northumberland National Park underlines the benefits of increased outdoor activity. Filling up with fuel, stopping at a cafe, staying in a B&B, etc. It all contributes.
Now, what's stopping you? Get out onto your local trails and give it a go.