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May 14, 2019

Kara's Lessons Learned on the Trail

Kara Goucher


I’ve been transitioning my running from the roads to the trails over the last couple of months. And although I’m no trail expert, I’ve learned some things along the way that might just help you if you are considering a similar transition. So here are my lessons, in no particular order:

You’ll need to give yourself extra time for your runs. You know how you know exactly how long it will take you to knock out an 8 mile run? No more. I’ve had 8 mile runs take 60 minutes and then as long as 100 minutes on the trials. The trails are hard to predict- muddy? Icy? Missed your turn? No more knowing exactly how long runs are going to take, pad each run with lots of extra time!

Let go of pacing. Sorry road runners, this part is hard. It’s so hard to predict your pacing here. There are hills, rocks, wild life, oh my! Sometimes it hurts my feelings to look down on my watch and see I just “ran” an 18 minute mile. But I’ve worked hard to let go of that mentality. Pacing doesn’t matter, getting through the terrain does.

Get ready for lots of snot rockets. Ok, maybe this is just me, but I spend a lot of time staring down at my feet while trail running. I’m so afraid of tripping or catching a toe that I rarely lift my head. That makes for a lot of sniffling or wiping snot on gloves. I’ve gotten really good at shooting out the snot rocket. Practice now, it makes for a much more pleasant run!

Leave your muddy caked on shoes outside until they are dry. Learned this the hard way. Leaving muddy shoes on the entry rug in the house left, well, really muddy globs of mud! Now I leave my shoes outside until they are dry to hit together or I hit a big puddle on the way back to my house to wade in before I set them out to dry.

You will need to invest in a hydration running pack and clothes with good pockets. A 15 mile run used to take me about 95 minutes. The last one I went on in the mountains took 3 hours. You need supplies! You are out on your own, you must be smart! You can’t go wandering into the woods for hours without hydration. Other essentials: gels, bars, phone, etc. It’s great to be out in the great wild, but you need to be safe as well.

Be aware of how to handle all wildlife. I already knew what to do if I saw a bear or mountain lion, but when I actually saw a mountain lion, I did everything wrong. Practice these things. It sounds silly but it might just save your life!

The moment you get cocky is the moment you will fall.  Never stop paying attention. 10 miles into my runs, when I’m tired and not picking up my feet as much and really just getting on by chatting with my training parter, I fall. If I get a little lazy with my knee drive or allow myself to zone out, down I go. You need to stay in the moment!  

But don’t forget to stop and look up. The trials are amazing. Every time I’m out there I am reminded of how large with world is and how insignificant I really am. The scenery is really breathtaking and it reminds me of the beauty all around me.  


Trails can seem intimidating, but they are actually so much fun! So get out there and go for it! Trust me, if this shuffling marathoner can get out there, you can too! Happy trails to you;)

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