Trail running: the best outdoor sport, for all the wrong reasons

Running is the best outdoor sport. You probably didn’t want to hear that, did you? I don’t like it either, because I hate running. Man, I hate running. I hate running 4-6 times a week for between 5 to 25 kms at a time and at varying, hateful speeds. There are several types of running, and yes, I hate them all. I hate tempo runs, interval runs, recovery runs, ventilatory threshold runs, long distance runs, and especially, maximum effort sprints. Oh man, do I hate them!


I hate the way that running is such a slog – it basically involves making myself uncomfortable for an extended period of time. I hate that running is one of the only ways I can unplug from the internet and get some head space.
I hate that all my best ideas seem to come to mind while I am running and I don’t have any means to capture them. On the days when I am not running, I hate that I feel all fidgety and restless and that I can’t sleep as well. Which means I hate running even when I don’t have to run. Sometimes I go nuts and enter a long-distance running event, so I can hate running with a bunch of other people, who I am sure hate it too. I pretty much hate running the whole time while I’m doing it until I stop and the warm afterglow permeates my body.

Trail running is not sexy like hucking cliffs on a snowboard, or tearing up a trail on a mountain bike, so the top trail runners are generally unknown (and they probably hate running, so they don’t talk about it much). The trail running videos that exist tend to emphasize the epic scenery more than the sport itself. What they do say about the sport can usually be summed-up as “Hey, look at how badly this person suffered! Awesome!”

“Smile like you’re enjoying it,” said the cameraman

So why is trail running the best outdoor sport?

The best outdoor sport is like the best training program: it’s the one you actually do. Trail running is by far the simplest, cheapest and most accessible way of getting out and into nature. In contrast to investment-heavy sports such as mountain biking, where you can spend upwards of several $1000 just getting started, all you need to start running are a pair of shoes and somewhere to do it. In terms of planning, all you need you need to do is open a map, look for a green spot, plot the fastest route there and set off – alone or with a friend, it doesn’t really matter. The setup time for a run is also minimal. Put on your shoes and you are ready to go. So for anyone stuck in the city who wants to get out into nature more, trail running is your best bet. Sorry about that.

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Benefits of running

Too many to list here, but here are a few to give you an idea:

  • Increased cardiovascular health
  • Stronger joints
  • Decreased body fat
  • Better core strength
  • Reduced stress, higher serotonin levels, increased self-esteem, etc.

I also think running is the most generic form of cross-training for other outdoor sports, because nearly all outdoor sports require core strength and aerobic fitness.

Starting running

If you live in the center of a city and the nearest bit of wilderness is hours away, I suggest you think about moving. In the meantime, settle for running in your local park. If you travel a lot, slip a pair of minimalist shoes into your suitcase. If you are insanely busy, set aside just 3 x 30 min sessions a week for the sake of your health, sanity and productivity. I promise you will notice benefits almost immediately.

But like any sport, starting running can be intimidating.

Luckily there are several programs that have been developed to deal with this. The most famous of these is probably Couch to 5k. This is a running program that takes a complete beginner to running 5 kms in increments spaced over 9 weeks. It is available here as a pdf. It is also available as a paid app on iOS and Android phones.

Misery loves company

Finally, there are several apps that track your performance and improvement in running. The most famous of these is without doubt Strava. Strava is great because it also has SNS functions, so you can share your suffering with other runners.

So, sign up with Strava then connect with me here. Let’s hate running together!

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