If you are a runner, taking your run to the trail may seem like the perfect way to combine your love of the sport with your love of nature and outdoor adventures. Transitioning to trail running isn’t as simple as lacing up some new trail running shoes and hitting the woods — a fact that the runner will quickly discover by their slower pace along with sore ankles and burning quads, as well as potential for trips and falls on the trail.
Trails offer a much more natural, softer surface comprising dirt, soil, mud, gravel, or grass. Trail running’s uneven terrain along with obstacles such as roots, rocks, puddles, and hanging branches will challenge the muscles of the body a lot differently than road running. After hitting the trail for the first time, runners will notice soreness in muscles that were never felt before as a result of running.
As mentioned, runners should expect to run a drastically slower pace than their road pace because roots, rocks, and brush add obstacles to your run. Proceed with caution as any of these can cause a fall and could be devastating to your run and/or training plan. A good tip is to scan the trail upwards starting from your feet to 10 feet in the distance as you run. You will see amazing views when trail running, but expect to be looking at the ground for the most part. When you reach an overlook or scenic view, take the time to stop and soak it in. For a lot of trail runners, the run is all about the experience rather than the time trial.
There are several types of trails including single-track or dirt road. The most common type of trail is a single track, which is a narrow path that doesn’t allow much room for runners or hikers to pass. Trail etiquette dictates that the slower traveler will heed the faster traveler and step off the side of the trail to allow them to pass.
If you are interested in trying some of our local trails, the Crystal Coast offers a wide variety of surfaces and distances. The Cedar Point Tideland Trail is located off of Highway 58 on the VFW road. This can be a good starter trail for runners considering a trek through the woods. This particular trail is a well-maintained approximately 1.5 mile loop, packed with gravel. This route includes scenic views with several sturdy metal bridges over the marsh.
Another short trail to try would be The Patsy Pond Trail located off of Highway 24 in the Croatan National Forest. The longest loop is the yellow trail with 2.5 miles; the green and blue trails offer much shorter distances and varying obstacles. The yellow path is a lot more sandy than you would think; expect the sand pits to slow you down. A longer option would be The Weetok Trail, an 11-mile long single track point-to-point trail located near the Town of Peletier on Highway 58. This trail offers a very long run deep in the forest.
Good luck out there and enjoy the run!
Jessica Diaz is an ultra runner, loving wife & mother, owner of a Siberian Husky, Running Coach & Race Director, as well as Digital Manager at The GYM Cape Carteret Aquatic & Wellness and entrepreneur of Diaz Media Marketing.