Running through the woods right now is about as good as it gets! The bugs are still sleeping, the trout lily, trillium and spring beauties are popping up and you can see forever. The trails are pretty much dry and the leaves are soft – you can hear everything…
As ever, when the sun is out and the leaves are down, you need to check for ticks at the end of the run and watch for hidden roots and rocks – just like when you go for a hike. But you are trail running! So check and watch faster.
Running on the roads and sidewalks is great for building long-distance miles, sprint speeds and timing for improvement; running on trails can provide the same benefits plus, oh yes, so much more! Your typical 5k time will most likely be slower and you may even feel some different muscles by the end but oh, the places you’ll go. And you will get there on softer-than-pavement routes. Because the trail is rarely flat and level, your feet and legs and arms are always making micro-adjustments to keep you moving forward. Sometimes they are MACRO-adjustments that resemble more dancing than running.
Sometimes you have to leap over rocks or sticks or, on my favorite trail, the year-old dead porcupine carcass. You duck, you bob, you weave – all of these motions add up to strengthening your legs, quickening your reflexes, making you more aware of your surroundings. You can time it if you’d like, or you can run the hill harder than you really want to – same kind of benefit. You can socially distance yourself with a friend on the trail. You can explore new places and see new things. You can use what you have in the closet, for the most part, and many of us can reach the woods from our back door! Most running shoes will work fine on a normal, northern Michigan trail. Having said that, most trail running-specific shoes have aggressive traction, some sort of rock guard in the toe and sole, and, to note, are bizarre looking. A racing flat like a Brooks Launch for your fast road training days isn’t the best choice for the trails as you will be slipping on any wet leaves; a solid trainer like the Brooks Ghost or Adrenaline will work fine for a lot of the paths. I prefer running the woods in a dedicated trail runner like the Hoka Speedgoat as the traction is awesome and it has a tough outer shell that resists burrs and sheds a little water. I also like a taller crew sock to keep the dirt off and out, but anything will work!
We are so, so fortunate up here to have so many places that are dedicated to letting us get outside. Some of my favorite areas to run are either part of the Little Traverse Conservancy or the North Country Trail system. The Conservancy has a super great Website and app that will get you right to the trail head and list all the trails. The Northwest Lower Michigan chapter of the North Country Trail has a great Map, too, that will get you the trailheads.
Some great Preserves to try: Offield Preserve, Elmer Johnston, Good Hart Farms. NCT sections: Larks Lake heading north to Robinson, South from Stutsmanville toward Brutus Road, the Skyline section near Petoskey. Give us a call and we can help choose a spot to get going, and visit the LTC and NCT websites to find your trails!