Trail Running 101

Written by Michael Lepore

It’s really not that complicated to get started running trails.  While it is still running, it is a bit different than running on roads though!  This tip will help you get started running trails in our area.

Whatever you do – try and take the chance to enjoy nature and get out and get started!  Our Wednesday Night trail runs are a great place to get started!  They make sure that you have a good place to go, and a group to go with – so you’re safe, and a guide – so you don’t need to worry about getting lost.

If you decide to go it on your own, I’ve tried to capture a few things to think about here.  No matter what you do, enjoy nature and get out there!

Where to go

Where you go for your trail run can really change the way the run goes.  Running in a mountainous rocky setting (think Wachusett Mountain, or in the Whites in NH) is going to be really different than running on a dirt road.  You not only have hills and elevation you have to worry about (like on a road), but also the terrain – how many rocks, roots and obstacles you might have.  Make sure to plan your destination around the kind of conditions you want.  Some are easily runnable, while others will require scrambling on your hands and knees or walking through deep mud.

We have a LOT of trails in our area!  Some of the really good beginner destinations in our area are the Desert in Marlborough (on Concord Rd), Assabet Wildlife Refuge on Rt 62 in Stow or Gates Pond in Berlin.  These have some hills and some roots and rocks (of course) but are very runnable and easy to get to.  Talk to folks in the club who run trails to find the right level of trail to run, and start out easy.

I like to use the Strava heatmap or AllTrails app / website to find new trails to run and plan out new routes.


Just like going on a road run away from home, you need to think about making sure that someone knows where you are.  Trails bring a few new challenges though.  Many trail sections won’t have great road access, or cell phone coverage.  If you twist an ankle or step funny, you need to think about the best way to get in and out.

Trails that are really far away in remote areas make this more challenging.  

Just like anything – stay in places you are comfortable.  If you are staying in one of our local conservation areas and have a map (or your phone with the map downloaded) and are careful and let someone know where you’re going – or bring a friend – there isn’t too much to worry about.


It gets dark early in the woods – and there isn’t usually a lot of ambient light.  The moon doesn’t always make it past the trees.  Given all that and the uneven footing, it’s pretty important that if you’re running near dusk to make sure to bring a headlamp or handheld lamp with you if there is any chance of darkness!


It’s always good to have the right equipment for the job.  Water bottles, Trail Shoes, Headlamps, Traction Devices for now are all great – if the conditions need them.  But you can run a lot of beginner trails in road shoes.  I like to recommend that you run in a pair of shoes that has SOME toe protection (like an upturned front) – just in case you kick a stick or rock.

Go for a Run!

Once you know where you’re going, and that you have all the right stuff – just go for it!  Don’t worry about your pace – take it slow and easy.  Learn to pick up your feet to get up over obstacles.  Go nice and slow – don’t expect to go for a 10 mile trail run your first time.  Remember you’re out in nature, so leave things clean and don’t litter.

Going with a group is awesome – and have fun and enjoy nature.  Make sure to stop and look around.  If you feel uncomfortable with the terrain don’t be afraid to walk (or power-hike!).  It’s sometimes faster to hike than it is to run up steep hills. Hope to see you soon for a casual, guided run- check the schedule for more details.





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