Canadian summer is officially on its way, and so is trail season. Now is the perfect time to swap out pavement and sidewalks for dirt paths and turn your run into an adventure. If you’re new to trail running and you’re feeling hesitant, we’ve got you covered. We spoke with Emma Neigel, a trackie-turned trail runner who was one of Canada’s top finishers at the 2019 World Mountain Running Championships for her best advice on making the transition from the roads and track to the trails.
First, a little background on Neigel: she started running in high school, where she quickly proved that she had some talent in the sport. She later was recruited to Mississippi State University, a Division 1 NCAA school, where she specialized in the 3,000m steeplechase. After graduation, she returned to Calgary and competed on several teams, representing both team Alberta and team Canada at several international competitions. In 2019, she competed on team Canada at the World Mountain Running Championships. Her first trail experience was competing with her family in the Canadian Death Race, and right away she loved the laid-back attitude of the trail running community.
“After college it was a good way to keep racing, especially during the pandemic with most road races cancelled,” she explains.
Neigel’s advice for hitting the trails
For runners who are making the transition from the roads or track to the trails, Neigel’s first piece of advice is to invest in a good pair of trail shoes, since road running shoes lack the grip you need when navigating more difficult terrain, and provide little help when you hit a patch of mud. Her second piece of advice is to take the time to enjoy the trail. She suggests leaving the tech at home and simply taking in the sights and sounds of nature.
“Trail running is a great escape from the everyday hustle and bustle,” she adds.
Finally, she reminds runners not to forget why they enjoy the sport, and encourages them to run new routes, find running friends and to take advantage of the good weather.
“The hardest part about running is getting your foot out of the door,” she says, “so stay motivated by keeping things fun.”