Happy Fourth of July runners! Summer is the perfect time of year to hit the trails, and what better way to celebrate our nation’s independence than abandoning the constraints of the pavement to enjoy the freedom of the wilderness? Not only can you avoid some of the sun and heat by heading into the woods, but this season provides runners, walkers, and hikers with some of the most ideal trail conditions. But before you grab your shoes and your favorite pair of moisture-wicking socks and head off-road, there are a few things that you’re going to want to think about.
Wet and Wild
Shade helps us to feel cooler, obviously. But it is important to remember to stay hydrated even when not dealing with the sun beating down on the pavement. Keep water or an electrolyte drink on hand, or make sure you know if and where available water sources will be available on your route.
You Are My Sunshine….
The summer indie flick “The Lobster” might be making waves, but don’t aim to be a lobster yourself. While the trails can help protect you from some UV exposure, it is still important to take preventative measures. Use sunscreen, or wear shirts that have a degree of UV protection built into the fabric. Preventing sunburn will keep you more comfortable running (irritated skin + chafing = no-fun-run), and is a good healthy habit generally speaking. Also, protect your eyes as they can get sunburned as well.
Bugs Bugs Bugs
Expect more bugs on the trails and plan accordingly – a little bit of repellant goes a long way in what can be a more humid, and therefore more insect-friendly environment. Sweat = biting-bug-candy. Also, don’t forget to do thorough tick checks, especially if you’ve run through high grass, loam, or took a more wooded trail. Higher cut socks and tightly tied back or plaited hair can help keep ticks out some of their favorite places. If you do find a tick on you, especially if it is embedded, be sure to get it tested.
Leave No Trace
More well known as the bywords of avid scouts, backpackers, and hikers, perhaps, this is a good motto for everyone to internalize. Leave no trace, also sometimes summed up as ‘leave only footprints, take only pictures’ is the practice of leaving an environment better than you found it, or at the very least, not leaving a bigger, messier human presence behind you. Most obviously, take any trash you might generate with you, but it’s also good to get in the habit of sticking to trails, leaving plants and flowers as they are, and leaving any wildlife you might see alone. These little things will not only keep you safer (staying on the trails = fewer chances of poison ivy/disturbing beehives/etc.) but also keep the trails pleasant for other users. #sharethewoods
Safety in Numbers
Need we say more? Uneven terrain, sketchy cell service, new locations – these things are best met with the original backup plan: a buddy. Even if you are a pro, we definitely recommend trail running with other people. Not only is it more fun, but worst case scenario, you have someone who knows EXACTLY where you are.
Know your Limits
Runners have a habit of pushing themselves, but trails are a good place to practice staying within one’s limits. If on an unfamiliar trail, it’s probably not the best idea to try and set a PR. Likewise, if you don’t know the effects of varied terrain on your body, maybe the 10 mile loop shouldn’t be the first one you run. It is also important to remember that trails require a little more awareness than roads. Try to get into the habit of knowing what sort or terrain your feet will meet for about 25 feet in front of you, so that you won’t be surprised by rocks, roots, or branches.
Location, Location, Location
We are lucky that Connecticut has tons of runner-friendly trail systems all over the state that are pretty well maintained and marked. Look up local state park systems, or check in with town municipalities which usually have maps available either online or are trailheads. Also, you can always stop by one of our locations and ask us where we run. Our Fairfield crew can point you to routes that mix roads and short trails, or stop by Branford and ask about Branford Supply Pond or what we like to call “the dump run” (a repurposed transfer station that lets you take advantage of the highest point in town and has some pretty great views). Or alternatively, you can always join us in Old Saybrook or Glastonbury for our Tuesday Night Trails series. Meet us a bit before 6:30pm at the Town Park in Old Saybrook, or at Gay City State Park in Glastonbury starting July 12. Also, stay tuned for our next post where we will break down some of our runners’ favorite places to run across the state.