Running outside after months of being indoors is invigorating in itself. Adding the opportunity to hit the trails and run in forests and parks, gives you another reason to love the sport. It can feel like an escape and provide a vibrant experience with fresh air and a diverse landscape. When trail running, you’ll need to take extra precautions and make safety your number 1 priority.
Follow these five tips from avid trail runners to help you stay safe when you choose to hit the trails:
1. WATCH YOUR STEP
Stepping on a rock, falling over debris and tripping on tree stumps can leave you in pain, which is challenging when you’re miles from aid. “Keep your pace slow enough to keep eyes on these items and always look about 5–10 seconds ahead to better prepare you when you encounter them,” says Dave Jordan, avid trail runner and park manager for Sweetwater Creek State Park. “Try not to hop or jump over those roots or tree stumps. When you do that or even change your stride, you can possibly get scuffed up once or twice.” For night-time trail runners, consider buying a quality, high-lumen headlamp. “Look for reviews before purchasing, some are quite an investment.”
2. GET LIVE TRACKING
If you use an app on your phone, like MapMyRun, to help navigate your route, “make sure you don’t deplete the battery to the point that it won’t help in the generally unlikely case of an emergency,” says Jordan. Also, premium membership in apps like MapMyRun offer live tracking, so your friends and loved ones can know exactly where you are in real time. Should you get lost or injured, they’ll know exactly where to send help.
3. RUN SMART
When heading out in the woods, make sure to wear bright, high-vis clothing to be seen by animals. Also, it’s important to continually assess how you feel and where you are. “During your run, stop periodically to hydrate, re-evaluate how you’re feeling and, most certainly, take a look at your surroundings to make sure you’re on the right trail,” says Jordan.
READ MORE > A RUN IN MY SHOES: THE BADEN POWELL TRAIL
4. LOOK OUT FOR CRITTERS
Rattlesnakes can be found in nearly every state except Hawaii, Maine and Alaska. So keep an eye out for them. Otherwise, “anything else will move away from the area because they’ll hear the commotion, but snakes can’t hear,” says Danny Zoucha, trail runner and former wildlife caretaker for Wild Care Australia. Snakes feel the vibrations of your footsteps and “will more than likely just find a quiet spot to lay low while you tramp past. Trail runners call snakes ‘nope sticks,’ meaning, ‘Is that snake? Nope, it’s just a stick.’” When in doubt, give a wide space between you and the object. “If you do get tagged by a snake, move away as slowly as you can, then stop, relax and wait for someone to come along and send for help. The more you move, the more the [potential] poison will circulate through your body.”
5. SAFEGUARD AGAINST ANIMALS
You can take several proactive measures to avoid a dangerous animal encounter. “Avoid dusk and dawn because wildlife are most active at this time. Running in the middle of the day is safer, although not necessarily wildlife-free,” says Joe Black, owner of the nature and hiking website Naturerated.com.
“It is also unwise to run where there is limited sight distance, such as in areas of dense vegetation along the trail,” says Chris Servheen, associate professor of wildlife conservation at the University of Montana.
Ready to hit the trail? Check out the UA Mountain Running Series!