As the snow melts and the trails thaw out, they’re beckoning to runners throughout Canada. Sunshine, cool temps, birds twittering in the trees, what could be better than spring trail running? What isn’t in this picture is something a little lower that is not as welcome for most runners: mud.
Spring brings muddy wet trails with puddles and water flowing on downhills. It can slow you down, affect your footing, comfort, and, well, cleanliness, Mud’s a part of trail running though and with a few tips, you can make it manageable and even fun.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT SHOES
A little more traction goes a long way towards giving you more stability on sloppy surfaces. Muddy runs are a good opportunity to use your shoes with the thickest possible lugs (the toothy grip found on the outsole of trail shoes). Lace up securely to keep the shoe on your foot in case you end up fighting the suction power of deep mud. Add trail gaiters for even more protection.
ADJUST YOUR STRIDE
Racing in the mud has its own problems, but if you’re out for a training run, there’s no reason not to use a shorter stride that helps you avoid slips and keep you stable. It will also be easier to recover your balance if you do slip, in which case you should slide with the slip until it slows down before correcting your direction of travel.
CHOOSE YOUR TRAIL CAREFULLY
Trails on south-facing hills or in the sun dry out more quickly. Same goes for higher, more exposed or rocky ground. Your favourite mid-summer trail may still be a morass of mud. On the downhills, wherever the water is running fastest, you will find the best footing, since water tends to carry away loose debris.
TIME YOUR RUN
In many places in Canada, it’s still cool enough in the mornings to keep trails from being as wet as they get when things heat up and more snow melt flows later in the day. If this is the case where you live take advantage of the drier, less crowded trails and get out early.
SLOW DOWN AND ENJOY IT
You won’t be meeting your usual pace goals in the mud. The consolation is that running in the mud will help your skills base in bad conditions and strengthen your legs. Keeping more on your toes may give you a better shot at keeping your pace. Mud is part of trail running. Unleash your inner kid–splash in puddles and worry about the laundry afterwards.