By Nicole Williams
Trail running is quickly gaining traction in the province as runners look to move off the road and into the great outdoors.
This sport involves running on any off-road surface, such as coulees, fields, forests, hills or dirt paths. The benefits include less strain and stress on your body, particularly your lower back and glutes, as you’re running on softer, more forgiving terrain than asphalt and cement. The changing landscape also increases the development of lesser-used stabilizing muscles, resulting in less repetitive movements and less risk of developing injuries that are common in road running.
Other added benefits include running in fresh air, which is better for overall lung health, and stress reduction from being away from the city, focusing less on home and work, and more on exploring the natural world around you.
Little equipment is required to get started. Road running shoes can be used; however, if you plan on spending any amount of time on the trails, you may want to buy a pair of trail running shoes. These shoes are designed to grip the softer terrain found on trails, are lower to the ground for better stability, and contain an extra layer that protects your feet from rock and other puncture wounds.
Trail runners will need to carry extra supplies with them to deal with the new challenges that comes with running off-road. You will want to invest in a comfortable, lightweight backpack to carry essential supplies such as a water bottle, bug repellent, food, sunscreen, GPS or compass with a map, a headlamp (if running at dusk or night) and basic first aid supplies like band aids.
Developing a safety strategy is a must. Before heading out on the trails, let someone know your route and when you expect to return. You should also carry a cell phone in case of an emergency, and try to run with at least one other person. You may want to join a running group, such as the Regina Road Runners Club or the Saskatoon Road Runners, for the benefit of group trail runs and events in your area.
The following are just a few of the running trails you’ll want to check out this year.
Beaver Flat 50 Course, Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, is one of the most grueling running trails in the province. Its 50 km course features more than 2,300 metres of vertical climbs, narrow paths, cacti, sand and wet conditions, and it boasts the appropriate hashtag: #anythingbutflat. According to the group’s website, “You’re going to love it, hate it, and love it some more. Guaranteed.”
Deadfall 50 Course, Echo Valley Provincial Park, winds through the Qu’Appelle Valley along narrow trails and expansive pastures, providing breath-taking views and challenges for runners of every level: https://deadfall50.ca
The Wascana Valley Nature Recreation Site, aka Wascana Trails, offers 15 kms of exceptional Qu’Appelle Valley trails and scenery. Trail markers lead runners through pathways that boast winding, sharp descents, steep inclines, gradual hills and other obstacles and challenges that will leave you wanting to return again and again: https://www.tourismsaskatchewan.com/search-results/105290/regina—wascana-valley-trails.
Buffalo Pound Provincial Park hosts the annual Prairie Summit Run-It Trail Race course, which features challenging hills, woodlands, and open grassland pathways, providing exceptional vistas for all trail users to enjoy: https://www.tourismsaskatchewan.com/provincialpark/303/buffalo-pound-provincial-park#sort=relevancy.
Remember, trail running is quite different from road running. You will not be able to run at the same pace on a trail as you do on a paved surface, so don’t focus on how many kilometers you’ve covered, but rather on your total time on the trails. Don’t be afraid to walk; steep inclines, rocky paths and hills are more challenging, and it’s okay to slow down and hike these areas. Falling is part of the experience, but as you get used to the off-road conditions, you will fall less. And, always be considerate to others on the trail: take out what you bring in, share the path, think of others, and don’t forget to stop and enjoy the view along the way.
Get off the beaten path; explore Saskatchewan’s running trails today!