With its unpredictable terrain and rewarding vistas, trail running can be a fulfilling adventure, but strenuous for even the most experienced of runners. While the challenges of a trail require a different sort of commitment from your mind and body in terms of endurance and technique, there are also some practical add-ons worth considering that can help you adapt to your surroundings better. A lot of these have to do with self-sufficiency and safety, and can be lasting investments for long distance running throughout your life.
Trail running, at least in India, is largely limited to mountainous tracts in the Himalayas or the Ghats. Depending on the season, you’re likely to encounter rain, snow or chilly winds and carrying a jacket that can guard you against all such natural elements is a must. Invest in something lightweight, waterproof and foldable that can be tucked inside your carry-pack without taking up too much effort or space.
There’s a whole world of trail-specific shoes out there but don’t let all the technical jargon confuse you. A lot of runners have conquered trails with their road running gear; all you have to remember is that your shoes need to be lightweight, flexible—they should offer a grip on the loose and rugged ground you’ll be running on and also protect your feet from the impact of rocks and tree roots. Here’s a handy guide to figuring out what kind of fit and style will work the best for you.
A strap-on pack that carries all your run requirements from sunscreen to maps and spare socks is a wise investment for longer and overnight trails. Go for one made of stretchy but durable fabric, moveable straps and adjustable fit. While most packs come lined with (often too many) zippers, test them out before purchase and see if they’ll actually accommodate your energy bars, torchlight, first-aid kit, and other essentials.
Don’t be immediately swayed by specialized trail clothing that seem to cost the earth. Unless you’re planning to run in really adverse terrain, your regular running clothes will work fine on the trail, complemented when necessary by jackets and extra socks. There are however greater chances of muddy encounters, slips and falls, so choose durable clothing that you don’t mind getting a little ragged or messy.
These refer to a whole range of accessories meant to keep you safe from the unpredictable nature of a trail. Depending on where you’re headed and how long you’re running, pack in sunscreen, insect repellents, a basic first-aid kit against cuts, bruises and sprains, a headlamp if needed, apart from an extra change of shirts, shorts and socks.
There are very few places you can get potable water while on a trail, and unless drinking from streams and ponds is your thing, it makes sense to carry your own supply. Several runners prefer the handheld sort that you can strap on to your wrists; it’s light, undemanding and also has provisions to hook on other things like a phone or your keys. For longer runs, a hydration vest comes in handy.
Trails demand a lot from your body and it’s important to stay hydrated and high on energy. Work out a basic break-to-eat schedule according to how you take to the trail and stock up on energy bars, fruits, dry fruits, and other treats that don’t take up too much space and are easy to consume. Steer clear of wet foods or anything that cannot be stored or disposed of. Finally, remember to carry all your trash back with you – mountains are delicate ecosystems and don’t need more plastic waste dumped on them.
Main Image: High Altitude