What Do Trail Runners Like
What do trail runners like in a trail? Answer – a lot of the same things as mountain bikers and nature walkers. Who knew?
Personally, I’m more in tune with the mountain biker community and wrote about their preferences earlier. I know biker preferences really well, but I do run trails too as part of an exercise plan. Accepting I’m not the expert, I decided to interview some local trail runners I know. These are people who actively seek out a trail to run at least a few days every week.
Trails offer us a place to play, exercise, and build connections to our community, both its geography and people. This story is about one particular type of trail user.
(This question/answer format will paraphrase and synthesize responses from multiple people.)
Question :: why trails and not pavement?
Answer :: Trails are more fun, interesting, and challenging. From the Folsom Trail Runners website…
“We run on the dirt and in the trees. Why? Trail running is…FUN, less impact on the body than running on pavement, utilizes more muscles groups so you get stronger, balance and agility improves, mentally stimulating, a great way to connect with nature, and you’re having so much fun you want to keep running!”
Question :: what trail characteristics do you prefer?
Answer :: I like a natural dirt surface that is somewhat smooth but also has some irregularities to keep things interesting. Having some rocks and logs on the trail are just fine if not ideal. Roads are boring- they’re totally smooth and the running rhythm is monotonous. The fun tails make me think constantly whether its about the pretty scenery or that next foot placement. Speaking of scenery, the better the scenery the better the trail. Trail runners are like nature walkers – only faster. Our foothills have beautiful landscapes and some trails have really spectacular distant views.
Question :: how big is the runner community in this area?
Answer :: It is huge! Everywhere you look you see evidence of runners of all types, trail and pavement. In Town Center there’s a new triathlete store going in next to Bike & Tri – the owners obvious felt the market was big enough to throw some money at it. On Meetup.com there is a Folsom Trail Runners group that is said to have approximately 1300 members. The group pulls from a wide area spanning Auburn to Folsom to Placerville. Also among the area’s users are the local high school’s cross -country teams and clubs.
Question :: do you always run the same trails?
Answer :: No. Like anything else, runners like some variety. We like variety in the trail surface and in the trails we run from day to day. They’ll link up multiple trails or trail segments in different combinations or different directions to create their own personalized variety. Runners have their favorites, which are oft-times the trails closest to their homes, exactly because it’s close. But to get that variety, it’s not uncommon to run a few miles of pavement to get to a trailhead or to jump in the car for a short (think 5-10 minute) drive to a trailhead. On days when more travel time is an option, runners will drive to good quality trails just to mix things up or to run with people they cannot run with during the busy work/school week.
Question :: how far do you run?
Answer :: runners tended to have a wide range of distances depending on their personal skill or time constraints. Some runners (like me) are in that 2-4 mile category. The more avid trail runners are looking for 8-15 miles or more in some cases.
Question :: do trail runners think about “trail destinations”?
Answer :: YES – runners like goals, and destinations are kinda like that. Be it a hill top with a rewarding view, a notable turn-a-around point, or a coffee shop — runners like a good destination.
Question :: could a quality trail network in El Dorado Hills pull visitors into the community daily?
Answer :: YES – runners are travelers by nature and they seek out variety and interesting places. Often times when friends get together for a run they’ll go somewhere nearby afterwards to eat, drink, and socialize.
I hope you’ve learned a little, if not a lot, about a large and growing community of trail users in our local area. While I especially focus on the trails in El Dorado Hills, it is important to keep in mind that a variety of people use, or would use, our trails. Many of the users most likely live in El Dorado Hills and yet some trail users live in neighboring communities such as Folsom. Trails offer us a place to play, exercise, and build connections to our community, both its geography and people.