Trail Running vs. Road Running

12 Oct

I thought I’d try something that requires little expertise for me to talk about today. My brain is too slow to try to pretend like I know more than I do. For the record, please don’t run a race, drive five hours back home, have your second family dinner of the weekend, then go enjoy a 13 hour day at school. Your usefulness to the universe will be greatly depleted.

So, today, here are my thoughts on running on trails versus running on tarmac. I like to think I have enough experience with both to give tips to a beginner but please remember, I am no expert. If you get eaten by a bear please don’t haunt me.

I live in a rural area that is extremely hilly. Picture a couple mountains on the coastline, and you have my hometown (roughly). The longest straight stretch I’ve ever encountered is a whopping 350m long. So you can bet I don’t have trouble finding slopes for my hill training.

What does this have to do with trails and roads, you ask? Well the hill issue is the greatest con for me about running on the road. It tops the long list of cons such as poor visibility, complete lack of sidewalks, aggressive deer, and creeps honking their horn in the summer. So yeah, as you can imagine, the hills are bad.

The trails where I live are yes, hilly as well, but the effort is less sustained; you’re headed uphill for maybe 100m and then it’s roughly flat or downhill. Much better than the 3km long hills I’ve tackled on the roads. Trails are also great because I can bring my dog off-leash, it’s much easier on my feet and legs, and there’s better coverage from the rain.

BUT, even after all that, I prefer to run on the roads, for the simple reason that there’s more to look at. Sure, sometimes what I’m looking at is a pair of glowing eyes as a buck watches me pass with my headlamp, but at least it’s something. The trails where I live are extensive compared to nearby cities, but there are only so many. And all trees start to look the same eventually.  I can get much more variety in scenery by running on the pavement.

I do like the trails once in a while; connecting with nature and my little dog and all that. But most mornings, it’s me pounding the pavement.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s a personal choice. There are health downsides to running on the road, yes, such as shin splints and foot injuries, etc. But I’ve found these can be avoided by making sure not to over-train and to vary which side of the road I’m running on. Of course, trails present the risk of tripping over a root and falling down a cliff (at least where I live). So there are downsides for both.

However, I just straight-up prefer running on the road. And if that’s what gets me out in the morning, leave me alone about it. And the hill issue? Well, as I try to tell myself… it’s only making me stronger.

2 Responses to “Trail Running vs. Road Running”

  1. Nel October 14, 2011 at 4:35 PM #

    I like hills. (Yes, I’m nuts.)

    I wish I had more trails where I live right now. It seems to me that where you live has beautiful scenery.

    • thetortoiseruns October 15, 2011 at 1:03 PM #

      It really is beautiful here. Sometimes I take it for granted actually. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with hills. So good for me… but so mean.

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