Trail running is a new and trendy form of exercise with strong roots in the forest. You can do it in any season, provided you use the right equipment.
Kirsi Kettunen is an avid runner who has naturally expanded her beloved hobby to forest trails. She also has a competitive spirit, and trail running has been a somewhat surprising experience.
"I have a deep love of nature and woodlands. I live in the Helsinki metropolitan area, but I was born and raised among the woods of Eastern Finland, so nothing is lovelier and refreshes my mind quite like roaming in nature. We often take our family to the cottage and on outings, but trail running has allowed me to connect with the forest in my everyday life."
Kettunen has always been eager to try new sports and experiment. However, trail running was a surprise: you can only compete against yourself. "When you run in the woods, you cannot help enjoying yourself. Getting into trail running has also relaxed my approach to other sports."
Trail runs often take place in groups along certain proven trail routes. Although the trails are for the most part distinctive, they can be harder to make out in the winter. A trail expert makes the experience more comfortable for new runners, so they can focus more on safe running technique.
"Just for safety, to prevent getting lost and to help you if you slip, you should have a running partner. The most important item is a pair of good shoes: you need to have sure footing. Studded running shoes are good for ice, but otherwise off-road running shoes are fine. You need to pack your bag with a first aid kit and drinks, and a little snack for longer runs."
Part of the sport is stopping to enjoy the view and the forest atmosphere. Although woodlands are more challenging than the asphalt jungle, natural peace and sensory pleasure will ease the journey. For this reason, Kirsi describes trail running as a cross between pleasure and sport. She says a long forest run gives you enough power for a full working week.
"Stones, roots, rock and other features of the terrain require your full attention and focus. It clears your head of other thoughts. The peace and tranquility of nature start to enter your mind. At least for me, the forest is what gives me power, something I do not experience on any other runs."
Kirsi's trail running tips
- Start with familiar or signposted trails. In new places, always bring a map or a friend, as well as a small backpack with a first aid kit, snacks and your phone.
- Pace yourself according to your physical fitness and comfort. Remember that trail running takes practice and that your skill will slowly improve.
- Join group runs. There are group runs for every kind of runner. Groups allow you to learn and explore new areas safely.
- Dress for the weather. You can start this hobby with regular running shoes, but if you get into it, you should get a pair of trail running shoes.
- Listen, look, and enjoy. Start training and happy trails!