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Trail Running for Beginners

By Tryfan Williams   

on February 26, 2015    No ratings yet.

Trail Running for Beginners

Now that the storms finally seem to have left us, I decided to put on my trail run shoes and head out towards the foot of Mynydd Mawr in Snowdonia. This was to be the starting point for my very first trail run, and add to that my very first night trail run! So maybe not the best introduction, but that’s the Mud and Routes way I suppose!

I’m no expert, in fact I’m a rank amateur,but I’ve tried to encompass the commonly acknowledged basics for beginners below to give you an idea of what to expect, and to try and convince you to try it out!

Why Trail Run?

Running in natural surrounding surely beats a run on the pavement in between carbon dioxide releasing traffic?

It requires more effort than traditional running, thus burns more calories. It also engages your core muscles in order to retain and improve balance, coordination, and agility.

Basically running through muddy woodlands or boggy moorland makes you feel badass!


The beginner’s six S’s


Take it easy and start out on a simple route.  Remember trail runs are more taxing on the body than average road runs, and your pace will suffer, so start on an easy route that’s not too technical so that you can get comfortable with your pace.


While road running can allow for large strides, you’ll have to consider a different tactic (?) with trail runs. Try to shorten the stride and keep your weight distributed above your feet, as a sudden change of direction or gradient can throw you off balance. You’ll also want to be mindful of your toe height, with obstacles such as rocks and roots at every turn, making sure you clear them is a must to avoid a nasty injury.


Trail runs in general are more engaging than road runs, mainly because you need to be ever mindful of your surroundings; this won’t be your normal care-free run with the iPod playing in the background! So scan the path ahead a few feet, changing direction and foot placement accordingly. Similar to mountain descents, you and your body will build and strengthen reaction times as you gain more and more experience, and in time negating obstacles before they arrive will become second nature.


If taking on a route with hill/mountain sized gradients then don’t be a hero.  More often than not trail runners will walk these as to not over exert themselves for the remainder of the run.  So don’t feel any shame in walking parts of your run.


Partner up and share the experience.  All the better if you can find someone who’s already into trail running as you can learn from them and gain confidence.


Remember to stay safe.  Trail runs are inherently in wild/remote places, so the usual drill applies: Let someone know where you are going and when you’ll be back. Running on your tod poses some risks so be mindful of this. You’ll also need to be aware of the weather.  And finally, knowledge of the location is also important, if you’re a beginner stick to routes that are familiar to you, or if not, make sure you have a map.

What gear do I need?

Here’s a list of the basics you’ll need.


If already running,you’ll know what suits you best whether it be shorts/leggings, t-shirt, base layer etc. Essentially you can wear what you like as long as you don’t mind them getting wet and muddy.

Remember unless you’re lucky enough to be living right beside a trail run, (if that’s the case I envy you) you’re probably going to drive to your destination, so you’ll need to think about taking at the very least a towel to dry down and possibly sit on, and a change of shoes and socks to drive back in. If it’s a long drive or if there’s a visit to the local Inn on the way back,a full change of clothes wouldn’t go a miss. There is nothing worse than getting to the pub entrance; only to be refused by the landlord on account of you’re muddy getup!


In reality any old shoes will do for a short run, as long as you’re ok with them getting wet/muddy. But if you get the bug and stick to it, a pair of trail shoes does have its advantages, and there are decent pairs out there for beginners at cheap prices!

Barefooting it is also an option, and fits in with the whole trail run ethos, but I would strongly urge against it for the beginner, and even after that this is for the hardcore among us!


For some, trail running is an experience to be one with nature, and they’d scoff at any tech being used, to which I say fair enough, and to an extent it’s true; no gadgets are required. But if you’re looking to take this on competitively and raise you’re game, a GPS watch would be handy indeed!

If on a new trail, a smartphone with a mapping app would be great, or a traditional map is fine.Although again I must stress as a beginner, I would advise you to stick to simple trails you already know of or have walked in the past.

If like me you’ll be partaking of this adventure during the night, a headlamp is essential. Now there are a lot to choose from and they can be expensive, but I find that the LED’s give best value.

If you get hooked and distance will be an achievable target, you may want to consider a waist pack or “bum bag”, in which you can carry water, energy gels, gloves and so on.

Trail run gear as with any other outdoor activity is weather dependent.  For an extensive rundown of winter trail run gear, check out this article by Mud and Routes.


I have to say trail running is growing on me and I can see myself going out more often, if only to see how much muddier I can get! The only major downside I can see at present is that I have to clean my shoes and car boot every time I go out! But with spring on it’s way and daylight now lengthening conditions are sure to improve.

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Tryfan Williams

siI’m a Welshman born and raised in the shadow of Snowdonia, and you could say the Mountains are in my blood with a name like Tryfan! I would class myself as a relative newcomer to the outdoor pursuits arena, and so my articles will be my attempt to chronicle my adventures, hopefully learning as I go and giving those that are in a similar boat an insight / forum to share and learn.

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