Yesterday my sister and I ran our first trail half marathon,the Helen Half Marathon, that I posted about a couple of weeks ago to stay on track after my full marathon in October. As you can see from the picture, it was gorgeous. We had a blast and the scenery doesn’t get any better. I have done over 25 half marathons on the road, but this was my first on trail. I was always scared to try one, but my sister convinced me to give it a try. Glad I did now, but yes it is different from a road run most definitely and it had its challenges.
There are a few differences that make it a little more challenging. The elevation changes can occur on road or trail, but the uneven ground…. rocks, roots and trail debris make for a much more difficult run. Typically, when I run road long distance, I have learned to conserve energy by minimally lifting the feet… but this is not good on trail. I learned real quick to pick my feet up higher to prevent a major face plant. There were several falls around me and I tripped many times throughout the race, but was able to save myself from a major disaster.
The other issue for me with trail running was depth perception. The uneven ground sometimes made it difficult when moving at a fast pace to take in the depth of where my feet were landing. With an abundance of leaves, a runner can be easily deceived. I lost my footing a few times, rolled my ankles just misjudging depth of where my foot was landing. No major issues, but I can see where a major injury could happen if a runner is not careful.
I found that I ran a little different when going up and down hills. I found myself sliding on leaves trying to run like I normally would on the road. A better adjustment for me was a side to side foot gait when going up and down the hills that were ankle-deep with leaves. By doing this, I slid less and had better control of my footing during the run.
Once I got the hang of it, I was able to relax more and enjoy the run. The weather was perfect… not too cold… not too hot. The scenery was awesome. I found that concentrating on my footing and being very conscious of this made the race go very quickly. We laughed at ourselves and stuck together throughout the race. The gentleman behind us told us to keep telling stories… we were entertaining him. He laughed and thought we were very “southern.” We had fun and will probably do it again next year. It was a great way to start the Christmas season. The race was geared for Christmas with a costume contest, Santa on sight and a DJ that was blasting hip hop Christmas music. It was a lot of fun.