The Things That Make a Trail Runner Stand Out

8 Trail Runner Traits.

You just know you are running into a road runner when you see one. Even if he’s out in the woods for some reason: they look different, don’t they?

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck… Just kidding! Many a runner are a cross-over between trail and pavement addicts.

But let’s just face it: the real trail runner does have a somewhat different mindset. And it shows in many ways.

The author of the article here puts her finger on some of what you’ll experience on the trail. (And afterwards!)
Read on!


1. Clean shoes are for city slickers. When road running was my only jam, shoes had to be pristine clean. Now the messier they are, the better. Red dirt, sand, clay—grime on your shoes means you’re having fun! Bonus points if you’re mending rips and tears with duct tape and have multiple colors of dirt on your shoes.

2. Dirt lines rule. I know it’s a trail worth repeating if I have a pronounced dirt line on my ankle above the sock line after removing them.

3. Peeing au naturel feels right. 

4. It’s nice to share. Not that runners on the road aren’t kind and thoughtful, but there’s something about trail running that inspires unique camaraderie, different conversation and a willingness to help in a bind and share supplies and fuel when needed.

5. Chuffing. No, it’s not the sound you make heading up hill. It’s the sound a bear makes when they are warning you to back off. Never did I think this was something I would need to know, much less experience, but it happens. If a bear is blocking the trail, keep in mind that you aren’t in a zoo, and there is no protective barrier between you and the bruin. Gather any wits about you, stay calm and find a new route.

6. Trail etiquette is key. Cyclists yield to runners and runners yield to horses. Remember: Everyone shares the trail. So even if you can’t decipher the confusing multi-directional triangular trail signs or decide how to dodge someone on a narrow section, be nice, give people plenty of room when you pass and say, “on your left.” It may seem counterintuitive, but even slow moving uphillers have right of way over those bombing downhill. If it’s a singletrack area, most slower-moving runners and walkers will yield and step aside if you’re coming in hot.

7. The sounds of nature. Sure music can give you a boost, but so can the sounds of rustling leaves, croaking frogs and bugling elk—or perhaps dead silence in this loud world. Plus, I want like to hear if a large animal or mountain biker is about to plow through me.

8. Scars are cool. While falls aren’t inevitable, scrapes happen—errant branches, a stick in the middle of the trail rocks or other unexpected edges can nip you as you pass. Look at scars as free tattoos to help you remember epic runs.

Source: Allison Pattillo.

Image: Flickr.

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