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5 tips for long runs on the trails

From serious ultras to the hobby jogger's Sunday long run, these five trail tips will help you reach new horizons

Any distance can be a long run. No matter your athletic journey, here are five tip-top tips for your long trail runs:

Tara Berry running in the San Juan Mountains. Photo: Tory Scholz

Take breaks

Just one hour of running involves somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000 steps, yet quality is still crucial. We wouldn’t go into the gym and do 50 reps of an exercise, pushing through the last 25 reps using terrible technique. This is the surest way to earn an injury. Rather, we would break up 50 reps into a few manageable sets. Running is no different. Fatigue makes us sloppy, massively increasing the risk of falls and injuries. So while we do want to push through discomfort and fatigue, we still want to maintain some semblance of reasonable running form. Stop and smell the flowers! Enjoy the view! Unless we’re in a race, there is no reason at all to risk our health.

Wear a backpack

Running packs are essential for long trail runs. Besides carrying fuel and hydration, packs provide safety and peace of mind. I personally run with a small first aid kit and readily accessible knife, both of which have proven useful in encounters with wild animals big and small. A slot for my phone, and storage for extra clothes are also potentially life saving features. For these reasons and more it is important to grow accustomed to our running packs, even if our long runs are of modest duration.

Merino wool base layers and buffs

Merino wool is my favorite clothing material for long trail runs. It manages moisture and temperature perfectly, while mitigating the stench of even the stinkiest athlete. Depending on the conditions, I will wear between one and three light merino base layers under a waterproof shell, and shed them as needed. I’ll go ahead and admit it publicly: after they dry out, they’re still good for another go (or two, or three) without needing to be washed. Save the environment, save money, save your nose, and be comfortable! Merino Buffs are the perfect accessory for a blustery weather running wardrobe. They transform from toque to scarf to hand wrap in seconds. I usually wear two around my neck and transfer them around my body as needed.

Run with friends

Safety in numbers. We’re more likely to take a tumble on long runs, or require a bit of help navigating back to the car. Besides, who wants to take selfies all day?

Consider maximalist trail shoes

Maximalism and minimalism both have their utility on the trails. For longer runs, maximalist shoes are usually the way to go. As our feet and lower legs fatigue, helpfully high cushioned shoes pick up the slack. I find myself feeling much less banged up after a long run in my Hoka Speedgoats, compared to my other comparatively less plush trail runners. The trade-off is the inherent ankle instability of higher stack heights, so if I am about to run extremely technical trails, I’ll settle for a good shoe with a more average stack height.