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.
- Tripping. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.