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Trail running is fun alternative to hiking for those with limited time.  It is also one of the best ways to train for mountaineering, as the uneven ground on a typical trail will work muscles similar to those used in climbing and hiking.  The key is to prevent injury, stay safe, and get home.  Here are 7 mistakes to avoid when trail running:

1.  Not leaving your plans with a reliable person.  You should tell someone where you’re running, including the trail, distance, and potential hazards.  When you’re expected back and what you have with you.  Check out these tips for more details on wilderness trip plans.

 

2.  Getting dehydrated.  Being dehydrated can cause a lot of other issues, like reduced focus, injuries, low performance, irritability, and longer recoveries.  1 in 4 decision tends to be wrong when a person is dehydrated.   Prevent dehydration by starting hydrated.  On runs longer than 8 miles take water with you, and drink it half way through your run.  

3.  Not bringing your smartphone.  While it’s ok to be unplugged and you hear much about not relying on your phone, the number 1 tool that initiates rescue in wilderness emergencies is still a cell phone.  iPhones and Android devices have GPS ability to show your location even if you lose reception.  The best thing to do is to cache the map area where you’ll be running before you start or download an app that supports offline maps. Programs such as MapMyRun, to track distance and other data are useful for training. 

4.  Not having the essentials.  Trail hiking is not backpacking and it won’t be feasible to carry a big pack, but a hydration pack is a great place to store small essential safety items like a fire starter, basic first aid kit, iodine tablets, knife, space blanket, headlamp, and extra power for smartphone.  These items are small enough that they don’t take much space and you won’t feel the weight.

5.  Wearing headphones.  I really enjoy music and audio books during runs, but when I’m on the trail I don’t wear headphones to stay alert.  My hearing has helped me avoid rock falls, falling trees, cars on dirt roads, and stepping on rattlesnakes.  I’ve also been able to hear calls for help from others in trouble.   When in the wilderness use your wits and senses.

6.  Pushing your distance beyond your fitness ability.  Pushing yourself and distance in the neighborhood is different than doing it on the trails.  Keep in mind that if you venture out too far in the woods its not always easy to call someone to drive and pick you up.  When in the Wilderness it’s a good idea to hold some energy in reserves for emergencies.  You can still venture out far but build up your distance in small increments.

7.  Not factoring in the weather.  Rain, snow, cold, and heat can really effect your run and how far and long your body will perform.  If you run into a canyon in the morning in the middle of summer, it could be scorching hot on your way back up.  If your out in rain be prepared to get wet and encounter slippery conditions.  Being sweaty and wet for long periods in the cold can open you up to cold injuries.  Always check the weather, plan your run for the optimum time of day, and dress appropriately.

 

Overall trail running is a great way to relive the stress of running on hard surfaces and get your body in shape for backpacking and mountaineering when short on workout time, so hit the trail, just do it safely.

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