Hit the Trails!
Now that we're deep into summer, it's a perfect time to explore some new running routes. One of the best choices for seeing nature and experiencing a lot of different views is to get out on some area trails. Two easy-to-use resources that can help you find nice places to run are the Montgomery County Trail Challenge and Circuit Trails. Either resource will give you details about the trails you're interested in. You can also drop by the store to talk about area trails as we've run on most of them. Another great source are other runners that you will see out on the trails.
Once you get to the trails there are a few simple rules you might consider using. First, it's important to remember that runners aren't the only people using the trails. You'll see bikers, walkers, hikers, bicyclists, dog walkers and nature lovers of all types. All of those are going at different speeds with different attention spans and different ideas about what appropriate use of a trail is. In our area, there are some trails that are wide enough for all to easily coexist while there are also ones narrow enough that when two people meet, one has to yield to the other.
Common sense is the way to go here when encountering someone on a trail. I usually think of three things that are all related to each other in some way; effort level, who has the harder terrain, and who is out of control. You should usually yield to a person at a higher effort level, like someone doing speedwork or hiking at their maximum effort. Harder terrain would be someone going uphill while you're going down, a person crossing a stream right when you're getting to it, or children trying to keep up on a bike ride. Out of control could be the person flying down the hill while running or on a bike, new trail users unfamiliar with these unwritten rules or totally distracted people who are out of control of either their emotions, dogs or people they are with. A fourth, entirely different, factor is the person who assumes what they're doing is more important than what you're doing and will follow none of the rules above. You usually don't have all four of these conditions occuring at the same time but if you do you should definately yield!
If passing from behind, it's good to give a verbal warning of some type so that the people in front of you know that you're coming up on them. You usually pass on the left just as you would if driving a car. A lot of the time if I'm running at a faster pace like speed work I'll also use a hand signal like pointing the direction I'm passing in so that if someone is coming up behind me to also pass, they'll know I'm moving to the left to pass or back to the right after passing. That keeps me from suprising the bike rider out for a quick spin and they'll appreciate not wondering what you're going to be doing next. If you're group is running towards someone, it's best to move to a single-file line until you get past them and then you can go back to your group formation.
It's also a great thing to greet fellow trail adventurers as well. I'm known as the Peace Guy out on the Pennypack trail as unless running some faster speedwork, I always give the peace sign to everyone I see.
Finally, remember to follow all trail signs. You may think it's okay to run on a trail that looks safe but there is usually a good reason that it's closed. In a later blog, we'll get to some essential trail gear and now to make sure that you aren't damaging nature while on the trails.
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