The Beginner’s Guide to Trail Running

Last updated 09.03.2018MariusMarius

Change up your workout, lace up your running shoes and hit the trails! Trail running is almost like cross training for road running—it helps you build more strength and power. At its best, trail running is a more minimalistic endeavour than road running. Trail running puts you face-to-face with an all-natural running high in the great outdoors. And why not try a trail race? They are super fun and they are also an excellent way to meet the local trail running community.

Trail running is a sport that consists of running and hiking over trails. It differs from road running and track running in that it generally takes place on hiking trails, often in mountainous terrain, where there can be much larger ascents and descents. Whether you are stuck in a running rut, bored by your neighbourhood routes or just plain hate the treadmill, it might be time to leave the road behind and head to the trails. Trail runners often cite being alone with nature’s beauty all around as primary reasons for preferring trail running. It is that something special about running away from the hustle and bustle that makes the rest of the world feel like it is falling away.

Trailrunning, Tirol, Pitztal, Nordkette

Trail running has many benefits, such as giving you the chance to spend time in the great outdoors while you exercise.

Quick Trail Running Tips

Trail running offers an alternative to the monotony of the paved road or gym with new adventure, scenic routes and challenging terrains. It requires different muscles to work together than road running on flat surface. Start slow, adjust your pace according to the terrain and develop a trail tempo. If you are going to weave trail running into your life, it is wise to invest in a pair of trail running shoes. The rugged tread offers better traction on muddy, wet trails.


Trail running is a quite minimalistic endeavour. The same technical apparel that you wear on roads works for trails, so lace up your regular running shoes and head out into the woods. However, if you are likely to encounter slippery and treacherous Alpine areas, favour footwear with more traction and an aggressive tread. And just like any adventure, it is best to come prepared with some basic essentials. For longer runs, these include snacks and water. Think of trail running with the same precautions you would use for hiking. Running with a backpack might feel weird at first, but it is totally worth it to have a place to stash a few key items: Bring your phone, a trail map, an extra layer and a first aid kit. If you wish to add technology to the experience, try GPS devices, heart rate monitors and smartphone apps.

Tech Tips for Your Adventure

Smartphone Apps like Runtastic allow you to track and share your activities, discover new running routes and reach exercise goals. If you want to head off the beaten path, you are strongly recommended to brush up on your map reading and navigation skills. Current-generation topographic maps are available from digital GIS databases, such as Bergfex or AMAP.

Trailrunning, Tirol, Pitztal, Nordkette

Trail running puts you face-to-face with an all-natural running high in the great outdoors.

Try a Race

Trail races are super fun. Most of these events are smaller than road races, which gives them a friendly, grassroots vibe. They are an excellent way to get to know new, beautiful trails or meet the local trail running community. To help you get started on your trail road of success, here are some of the most popular trail races taking place in Tirol:

Trailrunning, Tirol, Pitztal, Nordkette

Photo Credit: TVB Pitztal

Photo Credits (unless otherwise stated): © Marius Schwager.


Marius Schwager lives and works as a journalist and photographer in Innsbruck. The ‘mountainman wannabe’ loves nothing more than spending time in the incredible outdoors of the Alps and around the world and sharing the amazing sights and stories he sees along the way through photography.

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