Trail Running?  Sounds fun, but isn’t it hard, dangerous, and just for dirty hippies?

Runners, just like everyone else, are often set in their ways.  We like the shoe brand that we have been wearing for years, and will never switch.  We have our favorite routes, which we run religiously at least 3 times a week.  And we are hesitant to leave the comfort of the road to try out something new, like trail running.

I was this way for a long time.  An old roommate kept telling me about the trails of Rock Creek Park and how great they were, but I already had road routes I was happy with and was nervous to try something new.

Finally, that roommate convinced me, and it was because of that final push that my running has been transformed forever. I’m here today to give you 42 of those little pushes.  Some might not resonate with you, but hopefully many will.  Below I have listed 42 reasons to start trail running as soon as your next run:

1)  You won’t find traffic lights on the trail.  There is nothing worse than stopping every block to wait for the light to change.  Avoid those pesky lights all together by hitting the trails.

2)  Wildlife on the road usually comes in the form of roadkill, but on the trail, you are one with nature and all the wildlife that comes with it.

3)  Trail running is easier on the knees than pounding the pavement.  The more giving trail will help prevent injury to knees and joints.

4)  Trail running works your ankles, helping to strengthen the muscles that support your feet and legs.

5)  You aren’t going to get hit by a car on the trail, so while other dangers might be of concern, traffic most certainly is not.

6)  Balance is a big issue for many of us.  When trail running we are forced to adjust our balance with every stride.  Over time that practice will improve our balance which helps us not only in the present, but as we age.

7)  It is hard to get bored on a run, when you are constantly paying attention to your footing and your surroundings are so beautiful.

8) Trail running lets you experience the seasons in the rugged way nature intended.

9)  Roads are designed so that hills are not too steep or sudden.  Trails are not.  You can run killer hill workouts on the trail that could never be done on road.

10)  Some of the best running races in the world are run on trails.  By getting into trail running, you open yourself up to a whole new world of races both locally and elsewhere.

11)  By running the singletrack, you gain immediate membership into a new running subculture.  The trail running community is very friendly, I promise.

12)  If you want to run ultramarathons, you better start thinking about trail running.  Most ultras are run on trail.

13)  Trail running works a variety of  muscles in the legs and back, giving you a more well-rounded workout than running on smooth pavement.  This is important for strength and helps prevent injuries. 

14)  Trails can be found just about anywhere.

15)  Every new location provides a distinct trail experience.  The type, elevation, and views from one trail can be completely different than another.

16)  When running you can cover much more ground than hiking.  Turn that 5 mile day hike through the woods into a 10 mile trail run in the same amount of time!

17)  Nothing screams adventure like a trip deep into the wild wilderness.

18)  Slow trail running builds crazy amounts of muscle that road running just can’t do.  When you hit the roads after a few trail outings, you’ll notice that new strength speed.

19)  People, bikes, and strollers all crowd the sidewalks you are trying to run down.  Get away from the crowds by hitting the trail.

20)  Getting dirty is a lot of fun, and really easy to do when trail running.

21)  You can take a lot cooler pictures from a mountain peak or river bank than you can from a city sidewalk.

22)  Trail running can be turned into an entire vacation by camping out on the trail and running during the day.

23)  Need a boost to your self-esteem?  Start telling people you are trail runner.  They will think you are a badass, trust me.

24)  Everyone likes to have an excuse to run slow.  You will naturally run slower on trails than the road, so now you don’t have to hide it!

25)  Training at a higher elevation makes running at low elevations easier.  Trails will often lead you up a mountain or along a ridge, providing great opportunities for running at elevation.

26)  When you read blogs like and, you will relate.

27)  Being a trail runner doesn’t mean you can’t still be a road runner.

28)  You burn 10% more calories trail running than you do on regular road running.

29)  Many runners rank solitude as one of their favorite parts about running.  On the right trail, you will feel like you are the only person in the world.

30)  Trail hills can be tough, but no one in the trail running community cares if you throw your hands on your knees and power-hike your way up the hill.  In fact, it is expected!

31)  Trying out a new sport means trying out cool new gear!

32)  It is really easy to get lost when trail running (in your thoughts, hopefully not on the trail).

33)  Adrenaline keeps a lot of runners going when they are tired.  By moving your run to a more extreme location (a trail), that adrenaline keeps pumping.

34)  When you need a rest, it’s a lot more pleasant to rest by a creek, under a tree, or on a mountain peak than on a street corner.

35)  You’ll begin to feel like a Tarahumara Indian.

36)  It is easy to turn a short run into an all-day trek through the woods.  Switch between hiking and running if you want to spend more time on the trail.

37)  After following a few simple steps, even the indoorsman can feel prepared.

38)  The softer surface will help keep your feet healthy as you break in those new minimalist kicks.

39)  Hikers think you are crazy, sexy, cool, when you speed by them.

40)  Because you are running slower and burning more calories, you can bring more delicious foods with you on your run than just an energy gel.  Runners have been known to eat cookies and chips, and even drink soft-drinks (or hard ones!).

41)  Right now you probably get weird looks when you break out the headlamp for early morning or late evening road runs.  No one out on the trail at that time of day/night would think twice about the glowing lantern coming from your forehead.

42)  Trail scars are impressive.

That might seem like a lot of reasons, but I know there are many more.  If you are already a trail runner, what makes you get out and hit the dirt?

Still not convinced? Click here to pick up your copy of the free eBook Why Every Runner Should be a Trail Runners: And How to Become One.

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Photo Credit

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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7 thoughts on “42 Reasons to Stop Stalling and Start Trail Running Tomorrow

  1. lovely list thanks!
    My problem is: I do not own a car but I have beautiful nature surrounding my area (in Sweden) and I can easily take a bus to reach the spot. The problem is: I will feel embarassed to jump on the bus after the run, while looking (I assume) quite dirty. Any suggestion? Maybe I should carry super-light trousers in a backpack so I can change after the run?

    1. That is the joy, the glory of the trail run. Getting dirty shows that you did something, and that you are confident in who you are and what you are doing. Most of them
      will envy you for having the ability to do that.

      1. I totally agree with your statement. I used to envy others who looked like they just had an adventure, but now I’m having my own adventures.

  2. spot on! We are starting a trail running club at the boarding school where I work. We are located just off the Appalachian Trail in SW Va. Talk about a no-brainer!

  3. Really great article! I’ve been a trail runner for all of my 53 year old adult life and have not yet been injured to the point of wanting to go back to the road, other that the occasional tripping over roots or getting stung by stinging nettles. See you guys out there!!

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