How to start trail running

2 June 2022


We’re all familiar with running, but what if you’re looking for something more challenging? Then trail running might be for you. In this sport you run on unpaved paths, straight through nature. What are the benefits of trail running, and where can you do it?

What is trail running?
Trail running is a form of running where you go off the beaten track. Instead of running on a cycle path or the pavement, trail running involves running through nature. Straight through the woods or the dunes, braving rocks, streams or mud pools. One important difference from running is that trail running is less about speed and more about experiencing nature. So walking from time to time is perfectly fine. Nevertheless, trail running is no less demanding than regular running. In fact, even the most experienced runners will learn new things about themselves in nature.

What do you need?
You actually need very little for trail running apart from comfortable running clothes and good shoes. Trail running shoes differ from running shoes because of the coarse profile on the sole. The type of shoe you choose depends on the surface. If you run a lot on flat and hilly paths, you will need different shoes than if you run in the mountains. Most sports shops now have a lot of experience with trail running and the equipment required. Get good advice though, as this will reduce the risk of injury.

Where can you do trail running?
When you think of trail running, you might think of the mountains, but you can also do it perfectly well in the Netherlands. Our country may be small, but we have a lot of varied nature. A single search on Google will show you the most amazing trails, from the hills of Limburg to the Veluwe. But you can also do trail running if you would rather run a little closer to home – in the woods or in the dunes, for instance. Follow a marked trail (for example, the Natuurmonumenten trail running routes), or just take the first woodland path you come across: anything goes!

Tips for starting trail running

1. Don’t overdo it
Trail running is tough, especially if you haven’t run on unpaved surfaces before. You have to deal with ascents and descents, and the surface can surprise you. It’s more tiring than you think! So don’t set the bar too high for yourself, and let yourself get used to this new form of running.

2. Choose an area that you know
If this is your first trail run, choose an area you already know. For example, the woods where you often walk your dog, or the dunes where you regularly go. That means you will already have an idea of the distance, you are less likely to get lost and you can focus better on your surroundings.

3. Put on enough layers
Trail running often takes you further from home than ordinary running, so it may take some time to get back home. You should therefore wear several layers. It’s useful if the weather turns, or if you have to walk for a while: it prevents you from cooling down too quickly after running. The layers you don’t put on are kept in a small backpack on your back.

4. Take food and drink with you
That trail running backpack can also carry a hearty power bar and a bottle of water or sports drink. This is essential, because when you’re trail running you are often further from civilisation. Carrying enough fuel will prevent you from getting dehydrated or running out of energy during your run.

5. Enjoy it!
Many novice trailers want to run to the end point as quickly as possible. Or they sprint up the first mountain they come across, only to be exhausted after that. But trail running is about more than just the performance: the experience is at least as important. So don’t forget to enjoy your surroundings. That will enable you to get the most out of your run and really relax. Have fun!

How financially fit are you?
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