Trail Running and Winter/Spring Races

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February 16, 2014

My husband and I love trail running. Because it is one of our favorite activities, we are always trying to coax our friends into giving it a try. Here is our rationale/spiel. First of all, running in general is such a great form of cardiovascular exercise. According to the lofty Mayo Clinic, aerobic exercise such as running helps burn away excess pounds, strengthen bones and muscles, increase blood flow, release endorphins, reduce stress, ward off viral illnesses, and strengthen your heart*. Now all of that sounds pretty amazing, right? Who doesn’t want to be healthy and get those endorphins pumping?

But there’s more. Trail running in particular lessens the risk for certain injuries by reducing impact on the body and strengthening lots of supporting muscles that don’t get used on flat, hard surfaces. Sure, you may have to dodge the odd fallen tree or small woodland animal, but it’s part of the experience. Besides, all that dodging and hopping helps work core muscles and decreases the amount of constant pounding that your body takes during a typical pavement or treadmill run.

Another one of the advantages to trail running is that it takes you outside, into the heart of beautiful, interesting, sometimes wild places. Instead of pounding pavement, ingesting car fumes and greasy food odors, and dodging traffic, your steps are softened by fallen leaves, dirt, and sand. Your deep breaths pull in the scents of fresh air, wild flowers, pine, and earth. The perils of two ton vehicles and uneven concrete curbs are exchanged for roots, rocks, and wildlife. If you need a rest break, you can stop and enjoy a view or a babbling stream instead of someone else’s front yard or a fast food restaurant. The whole experience is much more soothing, refreshing, and inspiring.

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Now some people might argue that trail running is intimidating or harder than regular running, but it doesn’t have to be. You can start slow, take breaks, and enjoy all the beauty that surrounds you. Many people also find that the time passes more quickly because their minds are kept active by the changing scenery and more technical footwork.

If you want to find some motivation to hit the trails, I suggest signing up for a trail race. Some of our favorites are put on by Half Moon Outfitters. We just completed three of their races over the last couple of months, the Drifter 6k, the Make My Day 12k, and the Cherokee Rose 5k.

The Drifter 6k took place in Greenville at Conestee Nature Park discussed over here, while the Make My Day 12k was hosted in Columbia, SC at Harbison State Forest. This longer race was intense, especially since the snow from our latest Snowmageddon was still on the ground and a water main had burst leaving lots of deep puddles and stream crossings. It’s a great course though with only a few hills and lots of lovely open trail. You can check out the course here. The Cherokee Rose 5k was in Athens, GA at the Botanical Gardens. Last year, the course was a bit short, but this year it was accurate and included some extra hills.

When you register for any of these races, you get Smartwool socks and a fun tech-tee, usually from the Northface or Patagonia, not to mention a great after party full of raffles and in the case of the Greenville race, Counter Culture coffee from Swamp Rabbit Cafe. The next Half Moon Race isn’t until the Moonshiner 5k in the Fall, so there is plenty of time to get ready! In the meantime, we’re looking for some other great trail races to hit this summer. Do you have a favorite trail race or place to trail run? Keep looking for adventure far and nigh!

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*http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/aerobic-exercise/art-20045541

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