Georgina Ayre is an avid trail runner, and as one of our beloved TREK Ambadassadors, she has kindly shared some stellar tips to starting out in the sport yourself. Over to Georgina…
It’s been almost four years ago since I took my first tentative steps into trail running. I still don't really think of myself as a trail runner, more of a slightly hyperactive person who seems to spend most of her life in the mountains. I’m usually equipped with some water, a handful of TREK bars, a space blanket and some duct tape (the single most important piece of equipment on the trails….)
In these last four years, trail running has allowed me to see places, experience cultures and environments that I never imagined existed. I've loved every moment of it. I've met people who have challenged me, who have humbled me and who have become some of my closest friends. I have learned so much more about myself and have spent more time on the trails than I have done in my own bed. Even the really tough moments are enjoyable - running through a snow storm in the mountains sticks out as a particular highlight!
Unlike road running, trail running is much less about how fast or how far one can run. Trail running is an experience rather than a race. It's a community rather than a competition. A way of life rather than a sport.
Many people ask why and how I got into trail running:
I wanted to explore South Africa initially, and there is no better way to get to know a country and its people than on your own two feet. South Africa isn't the safest place to explore on your own, so joining the trail running community was the perfect solution to venturing safely into the wilderness.
I launched straight in at the deep end of ultra-trail running (anything over 42k) and entered a 220k stage race across Cambodia. It seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do at the time, but I didn't start running every step of the way. One of the greatest things about trail running – other than just getting out there - is that you don't actually have to run to be a ‘trail runner’. You’ll spend a lot of time engaging in different exercises such as hiking, rambling, sitting and crawling. To be a trail runner, you simply have to have an open mind, an open heart and a desire to just be on the trail!
How do you start?
The incredible thing about trail running is you can do it almost anywhere from the inner city to the most remote mountainside. Trail running is simply about finding something that isn't a road or a pavement and exploring where it takes you. For instance:
- A path through a park
- A trail along a canal or a river
- A track through a forest
- A run along a beach
- A scramble across some rocks
- A journey into the hills or the mountains
It really is as simple as that. To uncover different routes I often head to google maps to locate a trail to follow. There are also a bunch of running clubs which cater to all levels of runners which unveils plenty of new explorations and introduces you to new sporty accomplices. You can find your very own club here.
Of course, the practicalities vary depending on where you are, how long you're going for, whether you’re going alone etc. For me, the number one rule in trail running is to always make sure somebody knows where I'm going and when I'll be back. I always have a mobile phone with me, and if I'm going into the mountains I'll always take a satellite phone or a 'spot' with me - but that's probably overkill for a run around Battersea Park!
For your first trip onto the trails, my recommendation is not to buy anything that is significantly different from what you would use in road running. It's so easy to get caught up in the 'gear' and let's be honest – we all love it a bit of new kit – but it's important to understand whether trail running is for you before you invest….
But, of course you're going to love getting onto the trail, so here are my top tips on what you need to start off with….
A good pair of trail shoes – go for ones that have a better tread (grip) than your average road shoe, but don't go with anything too different to start off with.
A hydration pack - I always find a hydration pack to be invaluable – it allows you to carry some water and a little bit of food with you. For anything up to 2-3 hours, I find a 1 ltr pack sufficient.
As for clothes – well, you really just need your basics to start with, go with the same clothes you'd wear for any normal run. The only thing to consider differently on the trail is that you might get wet and dirty off the beaten track, so don’t wear anything you don’t want to ruin. If you're going out for a longer run, then think about taking a lightweight long-sleeved top and / or a waterproof with you.