How To Run a Trail Race

I ran in a lovely trail race over the weekend.  It was the Hark the Herald Angels Run, put on by Envirosports.  You could choose between a 12K (7 or so miles) or 25K (about 15 miles).  Both runs took you from the bottom of the island up and around to the top (which is called Mt. Livermore) and then back down.  The 25K did 2 loops whereas we slackers who chose the 12K did just one loop.

It was a well-organized race and and a lot of fun.  I’d definitely recommend this race and do plan on tackling it again next year!

I do, however, have some trail-race etiquette that I’d like to share.  Just in case you were wondering.

1.  Fast first, slow second

I am all for runners and walkers in races an applaud anyone who toes up to a start line.  But on a trail race, where there is limited space to pass, it’s even more important that you line up to start according to your pace.  I start out much slower on trails than I do on the road so I like to line up 2/3 of the way back.

2.  When in Doubt the Edge Wins

On the trail yesterday there was a point where the 24K group was coming up the switchbacks as our group was coming down.  Being a narrow trail there had to be one runner who yielded to another when they passed.  Common Sense dictates that the runner who is hugging the mountain should yield to the other runner so the person on the edge doesn’t get nudged off.  So even if you have a chance to win the race, please yield to the edge-er.

3.  Let the Caboose Pass the Engine

On a windy mountain road I’ve always adhered to the 5 car rule.  If I’m driving slow and carefully but I have 5 cars behind me that I’m obviously holding up, I pull over at an available inlet and let the faster cars pass.  If you are on a trail run and you find that you have a line of people running closely behind you.  Take a minute to step aside and let the faster people go.  It’s not worth the stress.

4.  Pass On the Left – Carefully

If you have to pass someone, please do so on the left and only when it’s safe to do so.  If there isn’t much room on the left, hold tight and wait for a better opportunity.  I know that those who are always running for a PR will hate me for this but being a safe runner is much better than knocking a runner off the edge or landing in the bushes or down the hill yourself.  And please speak clearly and loudly to let the runner ahead know that you are going to pass.

5.  Elbow Room

My final tip is to not run right on the heels of the person in front of you.  Even if you have people on your heels, don’t panic and start to ride your leader.  If they go down and you are too close you won’t have a chance to hit the brakes in time and there you go, ass over tea kettle.

Trail racing is a great way to add some intensity to your normal run schedule.  You should try it!

Now go run!

Keli 🙂


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