Is Trail Running Hard? (Yeah But It’s Worth It, Here’s Why)

Is trail running hard? Or maybe harder than road running? It’s a question that seems to pop up every once in a while. Some runners choose one or the other, some do both. But many runners do find that trail running is more challenging, both mentally and physically. Let’s dig into the why.

What is Trail Running?

Trail running is exactly that. Running on trails. Sometimes it’s in a single track trail, sometimes it’s on a non-paved, non-graveled, old beat up fire road leading up to the top of a mountain. It varies.

is trail running hard
Friends running in Forest Hill Park

It’s also generally a lot slower moving than it’s counterpart. And can include hiking/walking when going up hills, then running the flats and downs.

Or you can just simply walk because you’re tired.

Besides racing events, it’s more relaxing. You’re not out for a personal best. Or watching your splits. Or trying to beat the person besides you (mainly because they might not fit on the trail beside you)

It’s all about you. Your pace. And the enjoyment of being out there.

Why is Trail Running Hard?

Trail running can be more demanding on your muscles due the natural inclusion of hills, mountains, fallen trees, creek crossing and whatever other obstacles you may come across.

The uneven surface of trails can make running more difficult, especially if you are not the most sure footed runner. It can lead to ankle twisting, busted knees/elbows, broken toes and other injuries if you’re not careful. So watch your step!

Mentally, you have to be more aware our your surroundings. Not only because of the previously mentioned injury possibility, but also there’s an increased chance of getting lost. There might not be any signs pointing you in the right direction. One wrong turn can send you way off course and you wouldn’t even recognize it.

The Benefits of Trail Running & Why It’s Worth It!

Despite the challenges, there are plenty of reasons to love getting out on the trails.

The biggest reason is probably because it gets you away from the hustle and bustle of life. It’s a chance to clear your head, enjoy nature and just relax. (Or relax as much as one can while running)

Richmond VA Trails
North Bank Trail in Richmond VA

Hills actually become your friend when trail running. The more you do, the easier they seem to be. And once hills become easier, you can move to mountains. Just imagine how big your calves would get after that.

There’s a great sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a difficult trail. Especially if the trail ends with a beautiful view on top of a summit.

And what makes trail running hard, is actually what makes it more enjoyable for me. I like the ever changing terrain, watching foot placement, climbing a huge hill, then bombing down a hill covered in rocks and roots. It’s definitely hard to get bored when running trails.

Here’s a video of me recently exploring Wildwood Trail out in Portland OR. Please disregard the stock music lol. This was a quick edit.

Do I Need Any Special Gear?

Not really, just about everything you have for road running will suffice on the trails. That’s what we did back in my high school cross country days. One pair of running shoes did it all for you, except on race day, that’s when you’d grab the spikes. But still, it’s possible to do without any special gear.

But…..if you want to jump head first and get all the fun stuff. Grab yourself some trail running shoes, longer running shorts with more pockets, a Rabbit High Country SS plaid shirt, some Injinji toe socks, a breathable sweat wicking trucker cap, and maybe some Goodr running glasses.

More on that specific gear.

But like I said earlier, you don’t quite need any special trail running gear as long as you have basic road running stuff.