Trail running – running on trails

You have questions about trail running with dog? Here you will find questions and answers about running with a dog.

Admittedly, the former trend of sport has long since arrived in running and has also established itself in competitive sports. Large traditional outdoor manufacturers like “The North Face” have their own trail running teams with professional athletes like Ida-Sophie Hegemann. Events like the UTMB are also well-known outside the trail running bubble, and not just since the alliance with the triathlon brand IRONMAN.

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What is trail running?

A trail is an unpaved, often impassable natural path through the countryside or through forests. In this country, it is often synonymous with one of the many hiking trails created and maintained by tourist associations. A trail can have a lot of elevation gain, but it can also be very flat. Just as the landscape through which the trail runs dictates. A trail is clearly distinguished from paved roads and paths.
Trail running describes running on an unpaved path or trail in nature, and sometimes has somewhat different requirements for the runner or his running equipment. There is now a lot of special trail running equipment to meet the requirements on the trails.

Trail running is the most natural form of running, where you cover a distance in the most efficient gait. Trail running can therefore include walking, hiking and running.

Anke Warlich und Tobias Krumm

Trailrunning – a way of life

Trail running is also a kind of philosophy of life because it is about running harmonizing with nature as much as possible and spending time in nature. Trail runners enjoy the landscape around them and usually want to preserve it for others. CleanYourTrails, which I “invented”, is like Plogging, which came about a little later, about keeping one’s running territory clean and also collecting other people’s trash either while running or hiking. Meanwhile, some running and outdoor bloggers have dedicated themselves to the topic and have partly given it their own names. Ultimately, however, all regularly collect the garbage of others from nature and dispose of it.

What distinguishes trail running from road running?

If you take a closer look at a trail, you will notice that the surface is usually very uneven and peppered with roots, stones or branches. In order not to fall over, stumble or run out of round on such trails, you need a little more attention and concentration than on a flat, asphalt bike path.

In contrast to classic road running, trail running is more demanding on the body because the uneven ground with branches, roots and stones means that no two steps are the same. With each of your steps, your muscles, tendons and ligaments have to adapt accordingly, which inevitably leads to a different load. During your first runs on the trail or in the woods, you may experience some muscle soreness and need to recover longer than usual, even if you are a fairly confident runner.

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What is Ultra Running?

Wikipedia defines ultra-running as runs over a distance of 42.195 kilometers. Strictly speaking, an ultra marathon can be run from a distance of 42.196 kilometers, but since this can always be caused by measurement inaccuracies, the German Ultrarunners Association has agreed on a minimum distance of 50 kilometers. Consequently, it only lists results from runs of 50 kilometers or more in its statistics database. It doesn’t matter whether you’re running on a flat course or on hilly trails; what matters is the distance you run.

How did trail running come about?

You can’t really say that exactly because runners have probably always been out in nature somehow. Especially in areas with a wide landscape and few paved roads, trail running may have been more or less without alternative and thus the only possible form of running. Here in Germany, most likely the best known and oldest trail event is the GutsMuths-Rennsteiglauf, which starts in Eisenach, Thuringia, and has been held since 1973. Whether this is a real trail run is debatable, but it is definitely a landscape / forest run. In my eyes, however, there is no pure doctrine when it comes to trail running anyway. Internationally, there’s no getting around the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, or UTMB for short. The 100 miles (about 161 km) there, are considered something like the world championships in trail running and always have a first-class elite starter field.

Rennsteig Supermarathon Trailrunning
Typische Streckenführung beim Rennsteig Supermarathon

Is trail running suitable for beginners?

An important and often asked question. Trail running is basically suitable for any runner who wants to do it. A certain amount of surefootedness is required, but this is relatively easy to acquire if you are on the trails often enough.

Trail running is also great for kids and teens because besides the pure sport, there is a lot to experience in nature. As part of the Harlerunner blogger and podcast project, I recorded a podcast episode on the topic of “Running beginners welcome – trail running, the somewhat different running”, in which Thomas and I summarized the most important tips (from our experience) for you. You can also find the episode linked in the blogpost “Trailrunning Tips for Beginners and Advanced Runners” and read more tips.

Trail running with dog? Of course!

In my eyes, there is no better variant of running with a dog than trail running. Asphalt is known to be anything but ideal for dog paws and especially in summer and summery an absolute no-go. I have dedicated a separate page with lots of information and experiences to the topic of questions and answers about running with dogs, and I also talk regularly with Franzi about her progress with her Lagotto Romagnolo dog Muggi in the podcast.

Trailrunning mit Hund - Muggi im Matsch
Muggi im Matsch – Bild von

If you have a dog, then I recommend you just take him with you on the trail and have fun together in nature. But beware, in some forest areas dogs are required to be kept on a leash either all year round or seasonally.

What trail running equipment do you need?

The rumor that you do not need equipment for running, probably everyone has heard. Running is a cheap sport, most likely the same ;). There is of course something to it because more than a shirt, pants and shoes it does not need in fact. But already with the shoes, the first differences between road running and trail running begin. So, completely without running equipment you cannot do and many manufacturers now have special product lines for trail runners.

Trail running shoes are, among other things, usually a little more robust and have a more profiled sole, so that you find more grip on the trail or the toes are better protected if you get stuck on a root.

If the runs are a bit longer, then you can not get around a trail running backpack in my eyes (for something fancy models, you look best at Orange Mud) to carry some water or food. In some competitions, even some mandatory equipment such as rain gear or a first aid kit is required.

Do you have questions or additions to the topic? Then feel free to write me!

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