Matt Mund is the owner and founder of Mission Fitness. He is dedicated to helping his clients of all fitness levels achieve their personal goals
Why Trail Running?
Why Trail Running? The most common question I get about running is, "have you always loved running?" I think people ask this question hoping for an answer that gives them hope. Hope that they may magically start to love running one day. Well, I may have that magical answer. To answer the above question, "No! I used to hate running." So, how did I go from hating running to running 70+ mile weeks and running 50 mile races? Simple, I found trail running. I traded the pavement in for dirt, rocks, roots, and foot bridges. I traded the smell of car exhaust in for the smell of evergreens, and the sweet smells of nature. I traded the noise of traffic and horns in for the chirping birds and the rivers flowing. I went from dreading every run to not wanting to stop while running now. When you find something that brings you so much joy, you want to share it with everyone you know. That is why a few years ago we started to do an Intro to Trail Running Series through mission FITNESS to introduce people to trail running. I realized that most people had never tried it for several reasons: 1) they never knew it existed 2) they were afraid of the unknown 3) they didn't know where to go 4) they were scared to run alone. So, over the last 3 years and recently teaming up with Hartford Marathon Foundation, we have introduced over 50 people to trail running and many of them have not looked back since. The biggest feedback I get from runners is, "it is so much better on my knees". While trail running is much more difficult than the road for many reasons, it is much better on the body. The soft cushion of the trails protect your joints, while the ever changing terrain and footing alleviates muscle overuse issues that may come with the repetitive strides on the road. I was never the type that could hop on the road for an hour and let my mind wander as I ran effortlessly. My only thoughts would be, "the faster you go, the faster this is over." I was a slave to my Garmin. Checking my pace every 10 seconds to make sure I was in the right pace range. Man, how things have changed. Now, as I jump from rock to rock, over downed trees and rivers, my mind is only focused on where my foot will go next, and I feel like I float through the woods. It is that primal connection that you develop with running in the trails that just feels so true to who we are. And my Garmin? It has not left my drawer in 6 months. I run solely based on my heart rate and for time. 45 minutes. 1 hour. 2 hours. I could cover 5 miles or 20, it all depends on how much elevation is involved and how technical the trails are. I am someone that can run on the road at a 6:30 pace, but there are many times I am doing an 11 minute mile on the trails and sometimes much slower. Which brings me to the next positive about trail running. Walking is okay! It is even suggested. Some climbs are so steep that walking is more efficient. When I raced the 50 Mile Trail World Championships I saw some of the top trail runners in the world walk. So, no more feeling bad about a run if you had to walk, that's all part of trail running! I could go on for days about the million reasons I love trail running. The community of runners. The scenery. Not having to worry about getting hit by a texting driver. The fact it's 10-15 degrees cooler in the shaded trees, and so on. However, the best thing to do is to go out and try it for yourself. It may be the magic answer you have been looking for to start loving running, or at least not hating it! If you do decide to give it a try, make sure you bring someone with you and be safe. Carry water and your cell phone. Try a highly populated State Park such as Gay City State Park or one local to you. Or, contact us at mission FITNESS and we can help you out with any questions and maybe get you in to our next Trail Running Clinic. Or better yet, June 14th Hartford Marathon Foundation is putting on The Summer Solstice Trail Race that is the best run trail race you will find in the area. There is a 3.3 mile and 5.5 mile option. The trails will be well marked, and it would be a great way to try out the trails in the company of hundreds of others. We have had many clients do this race who have never ran on the trails before. Just remember, 5.5 miles on the trails will feel much longer than 5.5 on the road!