Hitting the trail with your feet moving | VailDaily.com

Hitting the trail with your feet moving

SPT Trail Running PU 7-18-07

Running shouldn’t be this enjoyable.

But it is.

Between the rustling of the leaves, the pungent aroma of sagebrush and the awesome views, when you take to the trails, you can almost forget you are running.

“The first time I went out and got serious about (trail running) my friend took me out and I thought, ‘These are places I would have never seen.’ The view, the quietness ” these are all factors that make it more appealing,” said Nancy Hobbs, the founder and executive director of the American Trail Running Association.

For runners who’ve made the switch from pavement to packed dirt, trail running does a great job of breaking up what can often be long periods of monotony.

“There’s something about being on the road that makes people look at their watches and time themselves and that’s taking the fun out of it,” said Anita Ortiz, the current National Mountain Running Champion and World Mountain Trophy Race Masters Champion. “A mile on a road is a mile. A mile on a trail can vary ” you’re on a flat trail, a steep climb. Some people don’t time themselves. They don’t get stressed about it.”

Ortiz, who holds the record for most times on the U.S. Mountain Running Team with five, spends hours on the trails training, but knows that there are good times to slow down and take a break.

“If you feel like hiking it, you hike and if you don’t feel like running that hard that day, you don’t and it doesn’t matter,” Ortiz said. “You still are getting out there and are out in nature and you’re where cars are not going.”

Even when she’s pushing hard, Ortiz can finds plenty to relax her mind.

“One of my favorite things is to come up in the evening when a storm is coming, which is typical, and you hear the trees rubbing against each other. I love to hear that,” she said.

For some trail runners, a jaunt in the woods is a double duty wrapped into one.

“I usually run with my dog,” said Tom Edwards. “I like it mostly because it’s exercise for him and it keeps him healthy.”

Edwards, who ran marathons in Los Angeles, Calif., for a long time, remembers his first trail running experience.

“It was breathtaking from two standpoints ” physically and awe-inspiring,” Edwards said.

Higher altitudes can make trail running more challenging than road running, but oftentimes the tall trees provide shade and cooler temperatures.

How to?

While all that’s required to get into trail running is a pair of shoes, there are some pointers that can help beginners.

“People need to realize that your pace isn’t going to be the same. You’ll run slower, and that’s OK. You just need to worry about your balance. It’s easy to trip and fall,” said Ortiz, who admits to falling from time to time.

Hobbs stresses paying attention to where your feet are going.

“You’ll get used to foot plants,” Hobbs said. “You should plan two to three steps ahead.”

And if you do catch a glimpse of a bird or wildflower you want to get a better view of?

“Stop when you want to enjoy scenery as opposed to (looking) when you are running,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs suggests that beginners not worry about racking up the miles, as road distances don’t correlate to distances on trails.

Trail running is easier on the knees, as it disperses the impact on different parts of the legs and feet, Hobbs said. But some giant climbs and descents can leave runners sore in areas they never knew were possible.

“It makes more sense to start out on something that’s more gentle,” Hobbs said.

Any running shoes will suffice, although trail running shoes are recommended.

Most moderate hiking trails double for trail running, making Eagle County a very friend trail running area. And with its abundance of great mountain-biking trails, Eagle is replete with trail running options.

“I really fell in love with it more when I moved to Eagle because there are more trails in Eagle,” said Ortiz, who now is running longer on the same trails as she trains for “Ultra” races. “I found a whole bunch of new (areas) I had never reached before. Sometimes I’ll go out there and the only tracks you’ll see are maybe a bike, but more likely a bear track or raindrops splatters.”

And there is plenty of different terrain on which to run in Eagle County, most of which is showcased in the Vail Recreation District’s Trail Running Series.

“One great thing about the Vail series is you have all kinds of races,” Hobbs said. “Uphill climbs, shorter, longer ” and those are great for the beginners as well as advanced.”

The really advanced runners ” like Ortiz ” can have a blast and represent their country.

“I love what I do,” Ortiz said. “I always joke with my husband, Mike, and say it’s fun to get to go on all these trips and get to do all this stuff for what your legs can do. I love it so much. It’s never a struggle and I never say, ‘Oh, I have to go out and train.'”

For more info and a list of races: http://www.trailrunner.com.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.

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