During my stay with my family in Los Angeles, California, my “playground” for my trail running are the mountain trails of Griffith Park; Verdugo Mountains; Echo Mountain, and Mt Lukens Trails. My daily runs vary from 7 miles (11K) up to 15 miles (24K).
The trails are usually wide, clean and dusty. I usually meet hikers and daily cyclists on their mountain bikes on these mountain trails. The elevation varies and very challenging but you don’t have any problems of big rocks, river/stream crossing, or big stones paved along the trails. But because of the nature of the landscape which is considered as desert environment, the place is hot during their summer season and I usually bring a lot of water for my hydration needs. Seldom you could see any streams or rivers or any natural feature where there is free-flowing of water.
There is no advantage of using a specific trail shoes on these mountain trails. I have observed on most hikers/runners on these trails that they are using road running shoes. Sometimes, I use road shoes on these trails and they give me the much needed traction on these trails.
The picture above shows the accumulation of dust that would stick on the back of my legs after my daily workouts on these trails.
As compared to my “playground” in the Philippines, the trails are usually mixture of single-track and slightly wider ones that could accommodate our local wooden sled pulled by carabaos and sometimes, the popularly known “All-Terrain Vehicles” (ATV). The single trails are the results of carabao’s and cow’s established route to the hills and mountains where they could eat grass and some trails would lead to water sources where they could drink or submerged their bodies during hot weather. There are also trails that are established due to the movement or flow of water from the peak of the mountain or hill during the rainy season.
Seldom you could see a well-maintained and well-established trails where the ground is flat, clean and dusty. Single track trails are sometimes covered with grasses and most of them cut through in the middle of tall grasses or what we call “cogon” grasses on the sides of the mountains.
During the rainy season (June-October/November), these trails are muddy, slippery, and sticky. It is very appropriate to use trail shoes to prevent one from sliding forward or worse, falling on the ground with your butt.
Streams would suddenly become a river with a strong current during rainy season. It is necessary to run with a companion or bring a rope which can be tied from the point of entry to the river to the other side and used as a “bridge rail” where one could hold so that one will not be swept by the strong current of the water.
It is expected that the muddy soil on the trail would stick on the soles of one’s shoes and would cause you to slow down in running. The added weight of the mud on your shoes would replicate your workout in the gym where your legs would be lifting an addition weight of about 3 pounds. This is one of reasons why I love to run on sticky/muddy trails—it will slow you down but your legs will benefit added weight as if you are doing your strength training in the gym.
There are lots of water streams where one could cool-off their tired legs or simply a good source of water for hydration needs.
But during the dry season, expect these muddy trails to be as hard as an asphalt/paved road but the unevenness of the ground would be very much beneficial in strengthening the smallest up to biggest muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your legs.
Thanks to the streams/rivers that I have to cross as I would easily wash my legs before I finally end up with my daily workout.
Now, if you ask me, which one is better—-running in my “playground” in California or in the Philippines? Both are good and the variety of trails works well with me. I would run on the trails in California with a faster time in covering a certain distance but definitely, running the trails in the Philippines would take me a much longer time in covering the same distance.
The most important thing in trail running is one’s ability to appreciate the outdoors, breath unpolluted air, enjoy the scenery and beauty of the surroundings, the challenge of unevenness of the trail, the variation of elevation, “engagement”/talking with the locals, and the joy of running with friends.
Keep on running!