The Transition from 26.2 to Ultra – Volume 2; From Pavement to Trail

This is from the 2012 Potawatomi Trail Endurance Series in Pekin, IL.
This is from the 2012 Potawatomi Trail Endurance Series in Pekin, IL.

The more popular marathons across the country are pavement-based races, meaning that mostly all of the 26.2 miles are primarily even, and for some even quick.  When searching for an ultra-marathon, pavement pounders may be surprised that a typical 50k or 50 mile race is actually done on a trail.

The transition from pavement to trail can be tedious, but there are so many benefits one can find from running on a trail.  The first being recovery time.  Dirt, sand, clay, and even limestone are a little more polite to the body, as they allow for less impact on all of the important areas.  The feet, knees, hips and back to name a few, you will find a pleasant surprise when your joint pain subsides in a lesser time than after running on concrete or asphalt.

The next thing to take into consideration is that different muscles will be used in your legs and body specifically due to the different terrain.  Trails, most of the time, will be a little more hilly than the pavement you are used to running on, so the gluteus and core will be activated most of the time on a trail.  Building these muscles can actually make you a more efficient runner when you return to the roads!

Trails have all sorts of obstacles that a runner needs to watch out for.
Trails have all sorts of obstacles that a runner needs to watch out for.

Ultimately, for most runners, especially those new to trails, there will be a discrepancy in finish time for a trail race compared to a pavement race.  Since trails typically take a little longer to maneuver through, it is important not to get too emotionally attached to a pavement PR.  Focusing on beating a road time might put one in different mindset, and can deter concentration.  This can be a bad thing considering trails are full of tree roots, limbs and branches, not to mention rocks and other flora.  These things can literally trip you up, causing a spill.

Which leads me to another point; falling.  If you can make it through your first trail run without a fall, then you are a lucky runner!  It should be expected that this will happen, but don’t fret as tripping on dirt is easier than taking your face to the concrete.

It is important to be prepared when venturing into trail running.  Having ample bug repellent is suggested, as ticks and other critters flock to humans.  It is not only uncomfortable, but can also be dangerous since certain insects can carry a variety of disease.  Not always necessary, trail shoes can help with traction on dirt and muddy surfaces.  Especially in mud, road shoes can act like they would if you were running on a sheet of ice.  By having deeper treads on your shoes, sliding is significantly reduced, and climbing hills is slightly less difficult.

These are just the beginning steps for trail running, but you can join the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/NewLeafUltraRuns.  Trail running is not only challenging to the body and mind, but can be extremely liberating and peaceful.  Happy Trails!

The beauty of the trails are breathtaking.
The beauty of the trails are breathtaking.
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