5 Ways a Trail Race is SOOOO very different than a road race.
No matter the distance, running on the trails is so much different than running on Satan’s Tar as my friend refers to the road. The only real similarity is that your feet are moving, but running trails has a whole different feel than running on the road besides the obvious surface area. Some of these things may just apply to me too:)
Yes, road races can and often do have a “party” atmosphere but underneath it there is a different feel. At the start line, most people are checking their Garmin, thinking race strategy, and just the underline tension of trying to meet a sub 2 half or goal. For me, I’ve experienced none of that at my trail races. Now this may be on me as usually when I do a trail race, I take the wait and see approach. My goal for the 50K was to finish and not to die while finishing. Lofty goals, I know. But I also know that trails are different and even the same trail on a different day will need to be run different. Now if somehow I were to go back to the Dirty German again next year (ahem, just saying), I would still have the same goals but maybe with the added goal to be more consistent on the second loop.
The Aid Stations
Oh my God, the aid stations. There is no comparison here. None. The aid station on a road race is all about efficiency. Getting runners in and getting them out in a seemless move. In a trail race, it is a smorgasbord of goodies. Peanut M&M’s, Twizzlers, PBJ sandwiches, SODA, and so many other things. I will say my favorites are soda and M&M’s. Yummy! I think I finished my 50K on sugar alone:):)
(Photo from Dirty German Website)
Ok, they are basically the same. A line of Port-a-Potties. The difference is on the course. Now maybe I shouldn’t go here, but I will…… Yes, on any given race you will see a man run behind a tree or next to a bridge or what ever. I always hate it because I think it is unfair to us woman who don’t have the luxury. Well on more than one occasion on the first loop, I saw two different women running in front of me who veered to the side to squat behind a tree. Don’t judge.
I’m not sure why but I often feel like walking is looked down upon in road races. Not by me as I have yet to complete a marathon where I haven’t walked and I’ve had some half marathons where I’ve also needed to walk. It happens. It’s just not the “norm.” That being said, walking is expected during parts of a trail race. My coach even pointed out that there are some places on the trail that walking is really more efficient and ” everyone walks, except for the elite few.” Going into every trail race/run I’ve done, I knew that there would be parts that I would walk. It is the nature of the beast. The only problem is to make sure to start running again!
If you are someone who feeds off the crowds at a road race to push through, running a trail race may not be for you. I say this because outside of the start/finish line and the aid stations, there are no crowds. You for the most part on on your own. As you can see there are not lines of people there to cheer you on, but those there do! Yes, you will start with a crowd of people but the further you run the more spread out the runners become. I started with the crowd and by the time I was nearing the end of my first lap there were only a few people near me. The second lap I was for the most part on my own. Be prepared for some alone time which I tend to like. If you don’t like that make sure to have a running buddy then.
I will say that I am a mixture of both. I do love the trails, but I also like the road. No matter if your a road runner, trail runner, or a bit of both there is enough roads and trails to make us all happy.
Which are you?