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July 11, 2013 Comments (9) Trails, Training

Top 5 reasons people fall on the trail

All trail runners eventually eat dirt.  Falling is an absolute in a sport of running up and down hills, over technical terrain, scree and tree roots.  There is no sure-fire way to prevent every fall, but knowing the main reasons people yard sale on the trail will cut down on ice packs, stitches and unsightly scars.

  1. IMG_3427Tripping. The number one cause of falling is tripping over something. Trails are littered with rocks and tree roots, and have uneven terrain. In order to avoid the hazards of the trail, ultra runners should choose smooth pack that has ideally been groomed and/or paved.
  2. Running/racing at night. Headlamps light the trail but the light source, located on the top of a runner’s head, makes trail hazards look 2-dimensional. In order to prevent a dirt nap in the middle of the night, running should occur during daylight hours. If a race can’t be completed during hours when the sun shines the brightest it’s okay to ask the Race Director to call off the race until the sun comes up again.
  3. Tired legs.  Trail runners are notorious for running long distances, thus causing fatigue in the get-away sticks.  The solution for tired legs is to run less and not add much elevation gain when one actually laces on the shoes. Ideally, a trail runner should practice their sport 1-2 days a week for 2-3 hours during daylight.
  4. Speed.  Running fast guarantees a digger because one or both feet are off the ground at any given time.  If humans were meant to run fast we would have been born with 4 legs and a tail.  Obviously our physiology is such that we are a danger to ourselves and should proceed with caution.
  5. Distraction.  Trail runners should never let their mind wander from the task of getting from Point A to Point B as quickly and safely as possible.  Ways to prevent distraction:
  • limit conversation with fellow runners
  • never look at the scenery
  • don’t think about work, family or the chaffing of your pack.


IMG_3203This list includes the major reasons trail runners fall.  Within each category there are several sub-categories, but delving into them is outside the parameters of this article.

To sum up; the top reason trail runners fall is tripping.  To ensure the body stays upright at all times a runner should slow down, seek flat surfaces, run during daylight hours and ensure complete recovery before embarking on any adventure away from the couch.  Remember; the mountains will always be there.  If you get itchy for a run, remember that the smoothness of your skin outweighs any reason for getting outdoors.

And always, always proceed with utter caution.  Your blood is precious. The last thing you want to do is water the ground with your DNA.

IMG_3453*This article is based on the author’s actual experiences and was written at the Emergency Room while waiting for stitches and an x-ray.


9 Responses to Top 5 reasons people fall on the trail

  1. leeapeea says:

    Ha! Nice “suggestions.” As a notorious “faller” (not to be confused with “baller”), I feel your pain, quite literally. In the last three years of trail running I’ve almost doubled the amount of scars on my knees, legs, and elbows that I had from my childhood mishaps. It’s generally due to #1 (gotta kick all them rocks and roots to show them who’s boss, you know) and #5 (turns around to tell runner behind, “Hey, this is a fun tra- whoops!”). Been lucky enough to not crack my head open. Yet.

  2. Carter says:

    Ummm, you make it sound like the way not to fall while running on a trial is don’t run run on a trail. That takes all the fun out of running!

  3. Kev says:

    i don’t get to run on trails and STILL fall. flat isn’t always the answer! 😉

  4. Steph says:

    “Your blood is precious. The last thing you want to do is water the ground with your DNA.”

    You’re hilarious! If I even look at a rock funny I will trip. I am just that clumsy…but won’t quit trails!

  5. I’ll take ugly knees any day!

  6. Lane says:

    I’m not sure what you trail running experience level is, which would qualify you to write such an article, but I can tell you that no experienced, self respecting trail or ultra runner would ever take this seriously. The whole point of ultra and trail running is to experience nature, and run trails which are mentally and physically challenging. You seem to want people to run in a safety bubble. George C. Patton said, “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” You seem to be saying, “If you see Hell at the next exit, find an alternate route.” I hate to sound harsh, but if you take this article seriously, I suggest you run on the roads (During daylight hours, of course.).

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