Trail running tips for beginners

With trail running increasing in popularity in Cape Town, there’s no shortage of scenic races to be run or great trails to be discovered. Here’s what you need to know if you’re just getting started…

Train right

Even if you’re a seasoned road runner, hitting the trail for the first time can be a challenging experience. If you decide that you want to venture into trail racing, it is a good idea to build up to it by incorporating trail runs into your training schedule. Start off with an easy jeep track and work your way up to a more technical single-track.

Invest in good gear

If you are serious about trail running you’ll want to invest in a pair of trail-running shoes. These generally have a lower profile, which makes rolling your ankles less likely, and more serious tread to accommodate slippery trails. It’s also worth getting a multi-bottle waist belt or hydration pack as you will need to carry your own water with you when you run.

Take it easy (sometimes)

When you first start out, try not to become too despondent about the time it takes you to complete a run or race. Because of the varied terrain and the almost inevitable climbs, it might take you twice as long as usual to complete a distance. Remember that it is also perfectly acceptable to walk from time to time… especially up steep hills!

Keep eyes peeled

When you are out in nature, it can be tempting to check out the views, but if you decide to do so it’s best to stop or walk. Trails are full of roots and rocks and other surprises, so it’s a good idea to focus on the trail in front of you while you’re running so that you know where you’re going to step for the next few strides. Don’t veer off the trail, and yield to other trail users.

Play it safe

Trail running can also be dangerous, so if you are going for a training run, try to run with friends or dogs and be sure to let someone know when and where you’ll be running. There are a number of trail running groups that you can join in Cape Town. Check out the Cape Runners Against Gravity, K-Way VOB Running Club, which has a trail group that runs on weekends, and Celtic Harriers, which offers trail runs on Thursdays.  Most trail races require you to carry water and safety items such as a windbreaker, cellphone and first aid items. If you are heading out onto the mountain for a trail run, it’s a good idea to be similarly prepared.

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