Hitting The Trail

They fight the elements. They fight their own bodies. Most of all, they fight to finish in time. Trail runners, participants in one of Oklahoma’s – and Edmond’s – fastest-growing sports, take running off the jogging paths and onto the dirt.

“People are getting off the beaten path. They want to do something different,” says Katharine Miller, vice president of the Oklahoma Trail Running Association. “Trail running is definitely more difficult than jogging because you have to deal with more of the elements. You don’t have a smooth surface to run on. You have to pay attention to every step. It’s more of a challenge. And people looking for more of a challenge find it in trail running.”

Much of trail running’s recent rise in popularity can be attributed to a growing interest in extreme sports. But trail runners also love it because it’s a terrific workout and a great opportunity to get outdoors.

Hard-core trail runners scoff at jogging tracks and circuits. Pavement’s not for them. They prefer dirt, rocks, crossing creeks and a sport where every step is different. No pounding the pavement, no repetitive motion. Just negotiating tough and grueling trails over every type of terrain imaginable.

“I get excited about trail running, whether I’m doing a routine workout or exploring new distances,” says runner Charlie Neuenschwander. “There’s never a dull moment on the trail. When you’re in the woods, dodging roots, rocks and the occasional low-hanging branch, it makes the workout a lot of fun.”

Popular trail running locations in the Oklahoma City area include Edmond’s Lake Arcadia, the Lake Stanley Draper Trail System and the Bluff Creek trail at Pat Murphy Park.

Beginning trail runners might want to join the OTRA for a training run at Lake Arcadia’s multi-use trail at 8 a.m. May 9. The group meets at the multi-use trailhead near the Lake Project Office.

Trail running may be a hard workout, but in some ways it’s easier on the body. No concrete means fewer shin splints, knee problems and other ailments that pavement runners encounter, Miller says.

Nonetheless, says Neuenschwander, “Run-ning on softer surfaces does take a little more juice out of you, as opposed to running on a harder surface that offers more return force when you push off with each stride. If you’re training for an event, trail running forces you to work a little harder because there are many more things to slow you down that are not factors in racing on roads.”

Unlike many other sports, trail running is easy on the wallet. It requires no special equipment other than a solid pair of running shoes and a water bottle.

And trail running is as much a social activity as it is a sport.

“As a club we meet once a month to run,” says Miller. “But then we also have a message board where our members just post when they’re running. All of us are always training for some event, so every Saturday people try and get together for a long run. Two of my running partners were bridesmaids in my wedding last year. I met them through trail running. Going for a two- or three-hour run with someone, you really get to know them.”

David Wood, an avid trail runner, agrees. “Half of the attraction of trail running is the people you run with, the laid-back environment and camaraderie of the trail-running community. It’s as important as the scenery, the wildlife and being in the great outdoors.”

For more information about the Oklahoma Trail Running Association and upcoming runs, visit www.oktrailrunning.com

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