Trail Running 101: Part #1

This is an excerpt from the book, “The Ultimate Guide To Trail Running” by Adam Chase & Nancy Hobbs.

Lisa Goldsmith, two-time USATF Mountain Runner of the Year says: “Trail running requires such an athletic style of running that a lifelong athlete will probably adapt better, say someone who has soccer or some agility sport in their background of experience. That said, I think it behoves a beginning trail runner to do some agility-type training. I am talking about anything from jumping rope to jump squats, running stairs, bounding, skipping, high knee drills, butt kicks; exercise that trains you to lift your feet off the ground with quickness. And, I would remind the runner to not run exclusively on trails as running dirt roads or even pavement will keep leg speed (leg turnover) in the muscle memory. As for racing, I say  “just do it!”. In all sports, I find racing and competing raises my level of skill and helps me find my true edge; racing is where breakthrough are discovered.”

No matter what your running or athletic background may be, the best introduction to trail running is to pick a nice day, find a beautiful gently rolling trail that offers dependable footing, and set off on a relaxed run. Take walking breaks as often as necessary and allow yourself to be carried away by the sounds of the natural environment and the peaceful surroundings. As you move along at a steady pace, absorb the views and breathe the clean air. From your initial experience, gradually build your running fitness and develop your trail running technique and skills.

The problem now is where to find the trails. North of Metro Manila, you can find a prominent mountain while travelling at the NLEX/SCTEX to Tarlac which is the Mount Arayat. I’ve never been to the said mountain but it appears that it is already considered as a National Park and through my readings on the Internet and some Mountaineering resources, the mountain has some trails.

Northwest of the province of Pampanga are the mountain ranges in Porac, Floridablanca, and Bataan which one can see if travelling along SCTEX towards Subic Freeport. Some of the Ultrarunners had experienced going to some parts of these mountains as it is the route of the Miyamit 50-Mile Trail Run. Further down the western side is the location of the “Brown Mountain” where I usually have my trail running workouts.

South of Metro Manila and at the end of SLEX is the province of Laguna. Los Banos is a nice place where one can start looking for trails up to the famous Mount Makiling. A simple research on the Internet will reveal a group of mountaineering clubs in the said area which are good source of information.

On the eastern border of Metro Manila are the mountains of Rizal which are accessible after travelling for 35-50 kilometers. Hopefully, there are still trails in Montalban and Antipolo if they are not yet developed as subdivisions. Sampaloc, Tanay is a very nice place where one could just try to easily find a mountain trail. The place where I had my Tanay 50K Ultra Run offers a lot of trails and I highly recommend this place for beginners.

Northeastern part of Bulacan and boundary with Metro Manila offers also some trails. Nearer to Metro Manila is the La Mesa Dam Trail Park which is also highly recommended for easy trail runs.

If you happen to know a trail near Metro Manila, you can share to us in this blog.

Before you hit the trails and if you are 40 years old and above, find time to talk to your doctor and ask for medical advice if your body can withstand and endure running/jogging/walking along the mountain trails. Of course, the doctor will do some endurance test on you and find out if your respiratory and circulatory systems are efficient for such sports activity. This first step is a must!

On Trail Running Shoes. If you are a beginner, there is no need to buy brand-new trail running shoes. You can use your old road shoes for the mean time and try to observe its performance when you are running on the trails. Stability shoes are more preferred for trail running.

On your running apparel & hydration needs, try to be light as possible as you will experience going up the hill and mountains with an extra baggage. For the mean time, there is no need to bring heavy hydration system as there are water sources along the route. In my running trips to “Brown Mountains”, I usually bring my Nathan SOB Single Bottle Belt which I can refill with water on the springs & streams along the route.

Try to practice some running drills before going to the mountains. For a starter, do some hill repeats to determine how far and how long you can go in an ascending road. Look for an ascending road which would take you 1-2 minutes to reach the top from its lowest part. Slowly jog from the lowest part up to top of the ascending road. Stop jogging once you reach the top and slowly walk to where you started. Repeat the drill up to the time you reach 30 minutes. As you become stronger and more comfortable in reaching the top, you can now increase the time of your drill to 45 minutes. Do this drill at least 3 times a week and try to find out how you progress within a period of at least one month. (Note: Go to McKinley Hill Area and you can find such ascending/descending road for your hill repeats!)

However, don’t underestimate the use of “power/brisk walking” breaks on your mountain trail runs. Usually, trail runners and even competitive ones have to resort to power walks on steep inclines during their runs. Yes, elite trail runners walk during their race! But they have also the mastery on how to run fast on the descending portions of the trails just to be able to regain the time they lost on their power walks. As a beginner, you have to be extra careful on being aggressive on the downhill runs as this will put so much work on your quadriceps muscles and overall balance on your body. Most likely, running fast on the downhill will rub your toenails on the front edge of your shoes and this will result to dead toenails!

Since I started using Heart Rate Monitor in the middle of last year as a means for immediate biofeedback on the intensity of my workouts and runs, I highly recommend that runners who would like to shift on mountain trail running to consider using such device.  In my hill runs, I make sure that my HR would average within the range of 142-150 beats per minute. My average pace might be slower but I have enough strength to last for hours in the mountains and be able to recover for another run the next day.

To be continued.

Good luck! See you at the Starting Line in the Trail Running 101 Runs!

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