I recently moved house, and although it was one of the more stressful experiences of my life, I now find myself with a large, wooded, country park, literally at the end of my road. Obviously I’m very happy about this, and I now have some great mountain bike terrain literally on my doorstep. But I started thinking that my newly acquired park (it’s mine now) provided a perfect opportunity to get into trail running.
If you’re not familiar with trail running, it’s a pretty self explanatory pursuit. In my case, it’s kind of like mountain biking, but without the bike, but in essence, it’s running across natural terrain – not roads, or fields or parks etc. While I’ll be viewing trail running as a hack through my local country park, many serious runners will trek across deserts or glaciers – I can’t see myself ever being fit, or mad enough for that though!
Now, I’m nowhere near as accomplished a runner as Sandra and the majority of my running miles are done either around a field, or on a treadmill in the gym. Despite the fact that Sandra is constantly trying to get me along to one of her orienteering events, I’ve never really given proper trail running a go, so I thought I’d get some professional advice.
Luckily for me, our friends at Cotswold Outdoor have recently introduced trail running departments to several of the larger stores. So, I arranged to meet with Matt Green at the Islington Cotswold branch for a chat and some inspiration.
In short, Matt was brilliant – he had first hand experience of almost every product in the trail running range. And remember those hardcore nutters that run across deserts and glaciers? Well he’s one of them! So the advice I got with regard to my new challenge was, to say the least, in depth.
I decided to kill two birds with one stone and try barefoot running as part of my trail running experiment. Matt talked me through the main differences and advantages of barefoot running, but made it clear that it’s a technique, and not a product. Obviously there are shoes designed specifically for a barefoot running style, but you still need to discipline yourself in order to change your stride and strike pattern.
Matt gave me a pair of Merrel Trail Glove shoes to try out, and I’ll be writing a full review of those in the coming weeks. Needless to say, a complete change of running technique feels very strange at first, but it also makes for an interesting challenge.
As well as shoes, Matt took me through some of the other key components for a serious trail runner. He showed me an array of backpacks – with runs that could last for days, you need to be able to carry some supplies with you. The most important aspects to the packs are fit and weight – obviously they need to be comfortable to wear for hours on end, and light enough to not weigh you down too much. Matt told me that he physically cuts off anything that isn’t essential on a pack to save a few grams!
It’s also imperative to stay warm and dry, so some kind of waterproof jacket is a must. Again weight is a prime consideration here, and the jackets that Matt showed me were, literally, light as a feather. One size, most definitely does not fit all though, with a dizzying array of styles – different lengths, hood types, number of pockets and, of course, waterproof fabrics.
We’ll be testing an variety of trail running kit over the coming months, and given the state of the weather in June, those waterproof jackets will come in handy – there’s still a hose pipe ban of course! And check out Matt’s website if you want to get some insight into how the hardcore trail runners do it…