What Brought You To Trail Running/Racing?

I was asked yesterday a question that I found hard to answer. Why do I run on trails? It was very hard for me to pinpoint one specific reason why I run trails. For me, I really like the challenge and variety of trails. On the road, I just feel out of my element. I’m not a great trail runner, but I certainly feel more at home in the woods than on a city street.

The next question I was asked was why do I think trail runners race? It was another interesting question because I had to admit that I didn’t think it was a competitive sport like many others. It just doesn’t feel like trail racing is about beating the other person on the trail (now, for some that is certainly the case). It just feels more like a desire to share an experience with other similarly aligned people in an organized way - versus trying to bury the guy/girl lining up next to you.

Interested in other people’s thoughts on this.

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I got started with trail running through a local running club (nittany valley running club) that participated in a local trail relay (Tussey Mountainback 50mile relay).

I definitely agree that, at least to me, trail running feels more about challenging oneself and also about experiencing and connecting with nature. One thing that makes trail running unique and distinct from road running is that the terrain under foot - while influenced by humans in terms of the course route, some trail maintenance, that sort of thing - is ultimately shaped by the forces of nature. The trail changes in the slightest of ways every moment, every day. Weather, water, animals, all of these types of influences continually shape and reshape how trail runners experience the trail. That type of dynamism is just not inherent to road running - more often than not the road is the road is the road.

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Hmm…I definitely agree that the variety of trail running is preferable to the (what I would characterize as) monotony of the road. Running through woods or up and down hills makes felt to me like a better workout than just the same movement over and over again.

But as both @davidc and @Blake point out, there’s not nearly the same competitive vibe in trail running that there is in road running. I’m never worried about shaving seconds off my 5k PR and half the time you’re running with a group to get to a spot where you can have beers with a view!

I’ve heard plenty of pro ultra runners say that they’re not really competing with each other, even though at the same time they literally are. That community is one of my favorite aspects, too.


I’m also gona double post this bc it fits under “why trails” and under “Favorite memes” !

Saw it under “Trail runners vs. road runners”


I guess off-road running for me goes all the way back to getting started in running and being on the x/c team at my secondary (high) school. In the UK, some of our x/c courses were a lot closer to trail races than some of those I’ve seen on NCAA coverage.

When I picked up running again in my mid-twenties, I was always drawn to trails as much as road. I’ve done a lot of road races (everything from one-mile to 40) but the races and experiences I’ve enjoyed the most have all been off the road - from trail to fell.

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One of my favourite races (events?) is a trail half/marathon starting in a village in the next county over from us and organised by the local walking/hiking club.

The great thing about it is the sense of community: everyone from the local speedsters anthem front to those walking every single step are there and welcomed and the whole village chips in with arranging and organising and providing food at the finish.

The camaraderie and community seems so much greater in trail running than on the road (which I also love, just in a very different way).

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Catharsis from daily life and stressors. I’m a palliative care Home health RN. I take care of a lot of oncology patients and very stressful dynamics and situations. I won’t give details, but it takes a toll on you mentally over time. When I’m out on trails, I feel free, happy, energized, and like I belong. I don’t run to race, but just started trying racing this year to see if I like it. I also train in Brazilian jiu jitsu and have trained in Muay Thai. I love being active! Life’s too short!


I have always loved being in the mountains and was a distance runner through highschool. After highschool my love for the mountains remained but my running stopped. 17 years later I signed up for a competition to try and get my health back and drop 40 pounds of fat. Some trail running was a part of that event and I was sold after that. Mountains and trail running… it was me! I do some road races still but my love is single track through timber, sage and Aspen.
As far as racing goes on trails… I am very competitive and even though I know I can’t compete for top spots in the 26+ mile runs I will still form my own group in my head that I try to stay ahead of. I will sign up for some 13.1 and 10k runs as a bit of an ego boost but even then I get slaughtered sometimes.
My favorite thing about the trail races is the friendships between strangers and the hanging out, drinking beer and sharing stories into the evening hours, it is wonderful.

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