I have been getting really dirty the last few runs. Dirty shoes, dirty legs, dirty shirt, dirty everything. All thanks to spring rains and the mud it makes. Its really not my fault that all the trails I have been running are designed poorly. The trails are usually the lowest point in their surroundings, making them the path of least resistance for water, and not a single one has a water break to funnel the water off the trail. By being poorly designed, the trails are still wet and muddy for days after the most recent rain. I’m not complaining here, but it does cause problems. Going through wet and muddy trails is how trails get ruined. Its not just runners who cause this problem either. Its people riding bikes, ATVs, and horses too. Just because the trail is open for use doesn’t necessarily mean it should be used, especially when the use could damage the trail.
So, I’m going to do my part and stay off the muddy trails and here are some tips so you can still enjoy spring trail running but not damage the trails.
1. Find South Facing Trails – Why south you ask? Well, the simple answer is they get more sunlight in the norther hemisphere, thus the trails dry out quicker. Also the same concept work on homes too. Want more natural light? Have more windows facing south.
2. Run on sandy/rocky trails- Water passes through sand easier causing the trails to dry out quicker. Same goes for the rocky trails. Crushed rock is a great surface for year-round running and this type of trail can be found almost everywhere. Just look for a rails-to-trails trail.
3. Run ridge top trails – This one is simple, water flows downhill. Trails on ridges will not come in contact with as much water as trails in lower areas due to runoff. Also the views are a lot better and you don’t have to worry about high water.
4. Run in the Morning – This works better in the north if you go before the temperature starts to climb as the mud will be “frozen”. The trails are still a little messy and slick but not as bad when the weather warms up.
5. Know the Weather – If its been wet the past few days avoid the trails. Odds are there is not a dry spot to be found and there is a lot of mud. Let the trails dry out for a few days before going.
Finally, don’t forget to show up at your next trail work day at your favorite trail. Putting the time and effort in to fix/clean a trail will not only give you the perspective on how much work goes into maintaining the trails but it will also help make it better for future use.