For most runners, the road is where they start, and they continue to enjoy it for years. Adventurous runners, however, have blazed many other paths, from trail running, to fell running and mud running. These different types of outdoor running can add variety and excitement to your routine while providing the luxury and full experience of being outside, immersed in nature. Each one also offers its own distinct atmosphere, challenges and rewards.
What is trail running? The basic idea of trail running is to run off road. This can be anything from an unpaved path in the park to a long and steep hill trail, and the focus can be to enjoy the outdoor experience of nature or to conquer challenging trails. Trail running can mean fewer injuries as the running surfaces are softer, and it also allows for technique improvement and speed improvement as the trails offer terrain challenges and really put your endurance to the test. After some trail running, taking your race to the asphalt will feel like smooth sailing.
You’ll need specific trail running shoes that provide extra traction and durability. Moreover, they'll need to be either water resistant or provide total water drainage. Having the proper shoes will not only improve your ability to handle the terrain but the extra sturdiness will protect your feet from the uneven ground. Trail shoes incorporate features such as embedded, hard-plastic plates, which protect the feet against rocks and other sharp objects.
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Also to learn more, come visit our other post about trail running shoes and why they're important:
Do You Need Trail Running Shoes?
Fell running is like trail running but with an emphasis on inclines. Fell running introduces a wide variety of terrain that you may not be used to, and you’ll find yourself running in some places and potentially walking others. The inclines that really make up fell running will push your endurance and make a serious workout for your ankles and quads, so strength training is a big component of success here. The steepness of a climb or descent is central to the challenge posed by a mountain or fell race. Often runners who participate in official races must have navigational skills and must carry survival gear with them during the race, which is a testament to the fact that fell running is for those that want to experience outdoor running like never before.
For mountain running, you'll need fell or trail running shoes with plenty of grip for steep descents. As weather changes can be unexpected, it’s important to be prepared with the layers you may need on your fell running expedition.
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What are mud runs? Rather than races to train for, mud runs offer more of a change of atmosphere and surface. Mud races are about enjoyment and 'surviving' the race, while times and Personal Bests (PB's) are much less a concern. They often feature obstacles, water ditches and climbing segments. Distances range from relatively short 5km to more demanding half marathons.
Gear is going to be punished during a mud run, so you may want to opt for a used pair of running shoes. However, tight-fitting running clothes will work better in water segments. From what we’ve learned, the lighter the clothes, the better you’re off for the remainder of the mud run.
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Seek out a trail running community and meet others to hit the trails with. New Zealand is host to numerous trail events catered to all ability levels. There's nothing like enrolling in a race to help provide you with that extra push to get out there. Consider signing up for the XTERRA Auckland Series, Rotorua Off Road, or the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon & Trail Runs.
Run with a friend or be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you'll be expected back. Also, be sure to bring your cell phone. It's easy to tell yourself nothing will ever happen but accidents occur in the blink of an eye.
With rough terrain a constant level of alertness is required to avoid tripping on obstacles or slipping. Keep your eyes on the trail, and create a line of travel by focusing four to five steps ahead, planning your steps for the next few strides.
The Mountain Safety Council of New Zealand suggests taking some things into consideration when planning a trail run. You should know how long you intend to run for, the terrain you'll be running on, what the weather might be and your fitness level. Items they recommend carrying include water, sunscreen, First Aid kit, a communication device, and perhaps insect repellent.
In the Auckland region look out for trail closures because of the spread of Kauri dieback. Respect the efforts being made to halt the progress of this disease to New Zealand's beautiful trees by visiting the cleaning station before hitting the trail. All it takes is a pinhead of soil to spread the disease. Avoid going off the track and damaging fragile root systems.
Need some inspiration for new trails to check out? Read our article about Top Trails in New Zealand!