For the trail runners…

After my epic trail run in Australia, I have a few questions for those of you who run trails regularly. Since I was both in a different country and racing a different type of race, I was wondering if the differences were related to trail running itself, or to cultural differences. Probably a mix of both, but, here are my questions:

• I noticed that nobody talked much out there. I don’t talk a whole lot myself when I’m racing at a hard effort, but at the slow pace we were taking, I would have expected/enjoyed a bit more banter. Is this trail running in general?

• If I saw someone fall (which I did several times), I’d slow down ask if they were ok, but never got much more than a gruff “yes” in response. I realize that some of this may just have been that the person was a bit annoyed at falling, but I was curious—are trail runners just a bit tougher and used to falling and therefore don’t expect any offers of help? I think in road races, if someone goes down, most of us stop to make sure they are ok and they’re probably glad for the help.

• I saw a decided lack of Garmins and ipods, which is something I can appreciate (I do like running’s simplicity). A trail running thing or an Australian thing?

• Is it typical that folks walk the ascents and run the descents? I noticed a lot of that happening and am wondering if that’s just the best way to approach trail running?

I’ll be interested to hear what you experienced trail runners have to say. I was a fish out of water in this race and my inquiring mind wants to know…

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  1. Running and living says

    I've done a lot of trail running in 2009. trail runners are chatty. if someone falls, they get asked if they are OK. No ipods, etc. I always ran the ascents, but some trail runners walk them.

  2. Kovas Palubinskas says

    As with road running, everyone's different. Most trail runners I've met tend to be laid-back, take it as it comes folks (hence no ipods or Garmins). The falling is expected and occurs often, so just get up and go. Walking the ascents is both a speed and energy thing – most people can walk up a steep hill almost as fast as running but expend a fraction of the energy.

  3. FLATOUT JIM says

    I can dig the lack of technogadgets.

    Regarding the people falling, were they guys or girls? guys will never admit they are hurt after a fall.

    As for the rest, mystery to me.

  4. Marlene says

    I've never done a trail race, but I know a lot of ultra runners and they ALWAYS walk the uphills. Of course, in an ultra distance race, that's probably the only way to survive!

    Too bad there wasn't more conversation going on out there.

  5. Jennifer says

    I have only done a few trail runs and I found that for me the iPod stays home as I need to be more aware of my surroundings and people coming up behind my slow butt on the trail and I like the sounds of nature. Can't really comment on the rest but I walk up hills if they are steep and/or technical.

  6. RunWithKate says

    From my experience, I have noticed that trail runners are out there for the sheer joy of running, THE END. I think a lot of runners that participate in large, corporate sponsored races do so either for the love of running, or to accomplish a certain goal and be part of somethineg BIG and EXCITING. Trail runners seem to want just the opposite. No frills, just running.

    I can see both sides. I love smaller, quieter, trail races and at the same time I enjoy the crowds at big races. :)

  7. Patrick Mahoney says

    Maybe it's just Australia, you know the opposite things happen like when water flushes down the other way?

  8. Barbie says

    I cannot help you with that one. Maybe they were just hardcore trail runners. Me, you couldn't stop me talking EVER, unless of course I was struggling for air up the hills.

  9. The Green Girl says

    I don't know that I'm an experienced trail runner but I have noticed that trail runners tend to run sans music – but I've seen quite a few Garmins.

    As for the running uphill, lately I've noticed a lot of runners tend to walk uphill – trail or road. I'm a strong uphill runner but a weak downhill runner so I'm the opposite.

  10. Jeff - DangleTheCarrot says

    My ultra trail experience was a little different. By the end I am guessing i knew half of the fields life story … seriously it was non-stop banter, just to keep your mind off of the miles. Friendliest group of people ever … sharing food and drink … looking out for each other … very cool.

    No iPods .. dangerous on trails. Need to focus on the technical aspect of it all.

    i saw a lot of garmins so that might be an Aussie thing.

    I went down pretty hard and literally 5-6 people all stopped to make sure I was okay AND someone even told a volunteer at the rest stop about a mile ahead b/c they came running back to check on me too. The fall must have looked worse than it felt?

    After about 25 miles I realized that I should have been walking up the hills and running down. Many others seemed to be doing this and I came to this realization as they were all passing me with a few miles to go (-:

  11. Chris K says

    Very interesting post and comments. Sorry that I can't add much since I don't really run trails. But, after two stress fractures in 13 months, maybe I should start.

  12. Mary Crowe says

    Trail runner for 5 years. No need for an ipod, the birds singing, trees rustling in the wind, insects are music to our ears. No need for a Garmin, we know we are working hard. Hard to talk while running trails as we need to concentrate on not tripping over roots on a single track. Yep falling happens. That being said, we are friendly and there are some who ipod it and garmin it up and once a week I trail run a slower run with a group and we chit chat the entire hour…

  13. Laura says

    I've run one trail race so this is by no means an answer based on much! But, most of the people walked the uphills and ran the downhills – I think running the uphills might have been my downfall in that race!!

    I felt like I was the only person there with headphones, there were only about 50 people in the race so that might actually have been true!

    I didn't see anyone fall so I can't comment on that, but people did seem really chatty so that was the opposite, but it was a local club organised run so I think a lot of the runners already knew each other from other races.

  14. Caratunk Girl says

    I don't know about the trail running thing – I just stalked your comments to find some of those answers myself! :) Welcome home!!!

  15. Matty O says

    The trailrunners I have met are neo-hippies (is that a word?). They were very talkative, didn't like technology, and the trails were "un-touched by man" … yet they were touching the trails with their feet???

    Haha, so not sure I can add to any insight. But I will say from a logic stand point, I don't see a trail run race as a race as much as I see it as an accomplishment. Racing trails seems like a broken ankle WAITING to happen. Just saying.

  16. Julie says

    You have some interesting observations…makes me wonder myself. I would love to try a real trail run too…perhaps next year:)

  17. Johann says

    There might be a few Aussie things there but in general trail runners are extremely friendly and will chat if the trail allows. Walking the ascents is normal and the best way to save energy on the longer runs. This works well on road ultras also. Most runners will say if they got hurt badly, but yes, trail runners are generally tougher and will just suck it up. They will still be glad that you ask. Not many gadgets definitely normal. You get really dirty and wet on longer runs and these guys are real earth/green type people as well.

  18. AshleyR says

    I'm an avid trail runner I have found that trail runners tend to be very friendly. I've chatted with many new people during races long and short. Only in 5k trail races have I been tight lipped since it's an all out need to focus for survival at speed situation.

    Most of us frown upon headphones due to the dangers of using them on narrow trails. You can really scare the crap out of a runner with headphones when you go to pass since they can't hear you call for passing space. That type of situation is frustrating because it holds you back waiting for response then you just have to barge past and hope for the best.

    walking uphill is normal. I do a mix depending on the hill, distance of the race, and how fit I'm feeling. I'm a demon down hill and know I'll pass the uphill runners in a blink of an eye once we get to the downhill.

    I wear a garmin but I know it's not accurate, they have a 5% error rate on wooded and technical trails, usually on the short side. But I like to know my time and an idea as to how much mileage is left so I don't empty my tank too soon or too late.

    Falling, we all do it. Unless there is blood or the person looks knocked out I check verbally that they are okay then move on. I feel that if they really need help they'll let me know when I ask their status. A trail race isn't complete without a few sets of bloody knees crossing the finish.

  19. Allie says

    Ah, I just saw this post! I train with a trail running group and it is really common to not wear iPods, though quite a few have Garmins. We are also a really chatty group, so maybe that is just something that changes in the race environment. And where we're running, walking up the uphills is almost the only way to do it without straining yourself!

  20. Stephanie says

    I would say it's rather the opposite to running road: on the trail people are way more chatty…once because trail races are often much longer in distance and hills, yes, let the trail runner be slower and therefore more talkative. I've fallen many times, and people are always so friendly checking on one. Don't give up yet;-)