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5 lessons road runners learn when they move to the trails

Krista DuChene on what the trails have taught her

During the pandemic, 2018 Boston Marathon third-place finisher and 2:28 marathoner Krista DuChene has started training on the trails. The runner had primarily raced and trained on the roads during her more than 10-year-long career, but like many others, DuChene found she needed a change as it became evident that she wouldn’t see an in-person marathon for a while. 

DuChene said she tried to do time trials over the spring and summer, but by fall, it was time for something new. “Since there aren’t any marathons I can get into right now, I decided to knock a few things off my running bucket list, and moving to the trails was one of them,” she says. DuChene is currently training to do a 54K trail time trial on November 7, her longest race to date and certainly the race with the most elevation gain. “I’m running with a group from Oakville, it’s really a time trial with some course marshals so I don’t get lost.”

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While DuChene isn’t done with the roads for good, she’s learned a lot from the change in pace and scenery. Here are some of her key takeaways from the trails. 

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Forget about pace

Road runners are so used to obsessively checking their watches for pace and splits. DuChene says when getting started on the trails you need to throw that out the window. “It honestly feels better to forget about how fast you’re running when you’re first getting started. It’s freeing.” Once runners become more comfortable, they’ll adjust to the new pace.

Climbing is hard

Before DuChene started exploring her local trails, she thought the Boston course was wildly hilly. Now, she’s got a whole new appreciation for elevation gain. “I don’t know how to pace myself, especially with how relentless the hills can be. This has certainly been one of the biggest challenges.”

Footing is even harder

The hills and the footing have been the most difficult to navigate for DuChene, as the rocks and roots are no joke when you move away from the roads. Ankle mobility and strength are key for trail runners, something DuChene is learning.

Sometimes you have to walk

After years of absolutely, without question, never walking during a workout or race, it’s a shift in mindset to realize that it’s an acceptable part of trail running. “Sometimes courses get so technical that you need to walk, which is something I don’t like. It’s taking some getting used to, for sure.”

Strava is fun

DuChene says she’s also found a love of Strava during the pandemic. “It’s really fun. I’ve started going for segments and it’s a great competitive outlet. I don’t think I ever want to just focus on one area of running. I’ve always experimented with all of the distances and I’ve liked the variety of mixing it up over the years. Trail running has been a fun new challnege during this uncertain time.”

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