There's no need to be apprehensive about taking your running off-road. There's so much more to offer - the views, the tranquility of traffic-free trails, the odd puddle or muddy section to splash through and the fun of picking your way through tricky sections (and it's perfectly acceptable to walk!).
Don’t bite off more than you can chew at first. Sure, we all hear about folk who take up trail running and within six months have won a 100km-ultra-running race. But for most of us it’s a case of building up slowly. Start with manageable training runs on trails (or roads if you prefer) over 1km, then 3km and lastly 5km. Once you feel comfortable at 5km, then move up to trying 10km. Be patient and don’t set your targets too high, too early.
Running on trails is very different to running on roads. It sounds obvious, but you need to take time to learn about the different types of terrain you’ll encounter. You can’t expect to run at the same pace over a trail scattered with rocks and tree roots as you would on the road. Get a feel for these terrains as you run over them, let your feet and shoes experience what’s underneath. Try to be agile and be ready to change your stride or alter your balance. The more you do this the more your confidence will grow.
One of the great things about the Lakeland Trails' events is that the courses are fully marked and marshalled so you can't get lost. If you're running by yourself, buy a map of the local area and study the network of trails near to your home. You will find this is a lot of fun and allows you to plan your routes in advance.
As that confidence grows, begin to look ahead on the trail, rather than at your feet. Not far, perhaps 2 metres ahead to start with and then increase your distance. The idea is that you can then see what type of terrain lies ahead and this then gives you time to think about where best to place your feet. It also allows you to spot any hazards up ahead. If you’re simply focused on your feet, you are more likely to miss these and end up wishing you’d picked your head up earlier!
Wearing the trail running shoes is really important for trail running. During a trail run or race, the terrain can change underfoot, so the most important thing is choosing a shoe that best matches that terrain and gives you the best possible grip. Forget road-specific shoes and get something with more traction on the outsole – the perfect shoe range for new trail runners are the PARKCLAW trail running shoes. It crosses over brilliantly from road to trail, as it still feels smooth like a road running shoe but has the necessary grip for paths and trails. When you become more adventurous with your trail running and start running regularly over muddy or technical trails, look at the ROCLITE trail running shoes, which are excellent all-rounders.
Lakeland Trails' events have generous cut-off times so don't feel the need to run up all of the hills (sometimes it's just as fast to walk). Have a pause, take a breath and take in the stunning scenery!