Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rules for the Trail - Part 3 - Trail Runners Run Trails

I never thought there was any need to write about this, but I now think I need to, so here goes.  I realize 99.9% of you already know all of this, so don't be insulted.  This is just for those 0.01% that are clueless.

During the Rocky Raccoon I was running with a guy entered in the 50 mile who had never run a trail race before.  As we approached a 180deg. turn on relatively flat ground, he suddenly left the trail and cut across to the other section of trail.  In six years of trail running and racing I have never seen anyone cut a trail like that.  I blamed it on having never run a trail race before.

I continued around the trail and caught back up to him in a short distance.  He probably saved 30 yards.  He looked at me like "why did you go all the way to the turn."  I felt like saying "because this is a trail race and I run on the trails."  I think he got the idea.  I made some comment about saving 50 feet, hoping he got the point the 50 feet is irrelevant in a 50 mile race.

For those of you new to trail running, never cut a corner.  The point of trail running is to "Run the Trail."  .  Trails are laid out as they are for a reason.  Stay on the trails.  I cannot tell you how many times I have seen runners across a ridge crest or on the other side of a draw heading the opposite direction and it would have been really easy to cut over to the other trail.  There are two problems in doing this.  First, if someone sees you, they may report you to the next aid station and  you might be disqualified.  The other problem is, if you are not familiar with the trials, you may actually be  moving backward.

On a related subject of things I really never intended to mention in a post, I will say a few things about littering.  I am always amazed at how much trash is dropped on trails at races.  You know it is "race trash" because it is things like GU packs or energy food.  If I ever see anyone throw something down intentionally on a trail I will embarrass them.  There is simply no excuse for throwing trash on any trail any time.  One good idea is to start races with an empty zip-lock baggie in a pocket.  After finishing a GU or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, put the wrapper in the baggie to keep from getting all that sticky stuff all over you.

I have one other comment on littering.  Often at races, aid station workers place trash containers out several 100 yards from the aid station so that you can discard cups and other trash before heading back out "into the wild."  That would make a good book title!  (Into the Wild and Into Thin Air are two of my favorite books.)   Sometimes the AS workers don't put the trash bags far enough out.  If you are drinking hot soup from a cup, it takes a while.  Apparently at RR people suggested they, the aid station workers, move the trash bags further up the trail because later in the race the trash boxes were further out.

If I carry a cup past the last trash box, I will usually stick it in my "Quick Draw" belt in an empty holder.  I usually have one or two empty loops and they hold a cup just fine.  You will also notice there is usually  pile or two of cups further down the trail.  If you simply have no place to carry a cup at least put it in a pile.  Don't just throw it down along the trial.


  1. I couldn't agree with your more David. Trail cutting always seems so pointless; not to mention potentially harmful to the fragile natural ecosystem.

    Luckily, I don't see a lot of "runner trash" on the trails I run. Every once in a while I'll see an empty GU on the trail. I think to myself that I really hope that packet fell from the runner's belt and they didn't notice. To think that a trail runner would actually throw away a packet on a trail would make me very sad.

  2. In reality, I don't see that much trash either. But in my mind, a little is too much. I do know trash falls out of pockets accidentally. While running hill repeats, I have come across some piece of trash I dropped that I was sure I securely stuffed in a pocket. My biggest irritation is that most of the trash I see at Oak Mountain State Park and along other trails, is stuff the casual hikers just throw down when they are finished with it. (Usually candy bar rappers and water bottles)

    Actually, I guess I did a little littering at Rocky Raccoon myself. After eating a little and sorting through my pak while walking and running along the trial I put everything back together and got back to the serious business of finishing the final 10 miles and realized I lost a glove. It was not visible back down the trail and I did not go back. I may have ended up buried in the mud forever.