Occasionally conversations are overheard or participated in, with respect to running preferences. One of the favourite debates is the love of tar or trail.
There are clearly differences in the two disciplines and opinions are often formulated on a runners perceived ability rather than due consideration to the benefits of either or both.
In coaching my advice to runners when they approach with an adamant “I am a trail runner” or the opposite emanating from a road runner who will say “I don’t enjoy cross country” or track for that matter, is why not simply be “a runner.” Once that is accepted the freedom to explore presents itself.
The various benefits of all aspects of running unfold and after all variety does indeed offer so much more spice.
Having been under “lockdown” runners should all be extremely aware of what such limitation does to one. It makes little sense therefore to impose a “lockdown mentality” on oneself.
In respect the opening gambit and from the perspective of having run for in excess of 40 years I am fully cognoscente that there are lifetime seasons when one discipline may better suit a lifestyle based on family, business and the like. Or the hunger to chase times, iconic events and sought after medals may be the allure.
The most obvious difference between running a road race or one on a trail is the ability to measure performance. Road races are, or should be, accurately determined in respect of distance. The methodology revolves around a surveyed 500m or kilometre and the calibration of a Clain Jones device fitted to a bicycle prior to and post measurement. The device, invented in 1984 by Alan Jones in the USA, is widely accepted as the most accurate means of course measurement.
The type of course is taken into account for record purposes too and any articulate race organiser decides in the early stages what they wish to achieve in presenting an event.
Included in the preparation of a road race is the provision of hydration.
A trail race on the other hand covers all manner of terrain, is often loosely measured by way of GPS devices and measurements often vary from one runner to another for all manner of reasons.
A road race exposes a runner to definitive speed, or individual athletic strengths, while on the trails it is more about overall strength, being fleet of foot and self sufficiency in the nutritional department. It is also often more equipment driven.
Road runners are unlikely to stop and take in views, though they may acknowledge them if there are indeed any, while on the trails there always seems to be time to stop, take in the coastal, mountain, bush or other views, even a quick snap shot is acceptable.
For runners who wish to get ever faster or stronger then the oldest form of athletics, track running or cross country racing offer it all. So the point is why limit ones horizons? Rather get out whenever possible and run the beaches, explore the bush and chase on the roads, track or turf. The result will then never be to have us left wondering; “I wonder what if?”