Rock/Creek Racer Tom Sell on Trail Running

I love being on trails, there is nothing like it. I feel so alive running along the ever changing terrain, scrambling over roots, rocks and fallen trees. Catching sight of deer, getting muddy, crossing streams and dodging limbs are some of the things that make it anything but boring.

99% of my running and riding mileage nowadays is done off road. I find the trails to be more forgiving on my joints and a pleasant escape from my day to day hectic world i.e. no cars- no people. I often zip along totally absorbed in my tranquil surroundings unable to think about anything but the sights and sounds of my own labored breathing. What an escape from reality.

Running on trails is very different from running on roads so I thought I would put together a few tips for the newbie trail runner.

Two types of trail runners

In trail running there exists two types of trail runners-those who have fallen and those who will fall. Somewhere, some place there is a root, rut, or rock that is just dying to grab your foot. Know that you will fall and just hope that there will be no trip to the emergency room to accompany your fall. I am in the category of having gone down –too many times to count with the worst being a few stitches. Most of my falls results in some bruises and minor blood shed-just enough to let you know you are alive. When you do fall try to go with the fall and do not tense up too much.

Trail Shoes

Invest in some good trail shoes. I am partial to Salomon Crossmax1 but La Sportiva, North Face, and Montrail all make great shoes as well. I am not personally a fan of the minimalist trend when it comes to trail shoes but that’s just me. Everybody has a different preference. I prefer a big beefy shoe with giant lugs to provide protection around and under my foot. I have worn shoes all my life so therefore my feet expect to be pampered with lots of protection.

Hand Held

I have become very accustomed to running with a hand held bottle pretty much anytime I run. Ultimate Direction makes several different sizes and colors. The obvious beauty of carrying a hand held is you can sip often, staying fueled/hydrated. The hidden plus is that you will have a built in shock absorber when you go down (see two types of trail runners above). Don’t be shocked as you fall on your hand held to see the top fly off as a result of your impact with the ground.

Leave itinerary

When you trail run you may go long periods of time without seeing other people which is not so bad, but in case you become lost, injured or otherwise incapacitated you need to know people will try to come find. Let someone reliable and trustworthy (not your ex-wife) know how long you will be gone and where you are going. It may not be a bad idea to carry your cell phone, just be aware that it does not have quite the same kind of shock absorbing qualities as a hand held bottle when you fall.

Visor or hat

This is purely a suggestion by I prefer wearing a visor/hat when I run. I find that having a slick dome promotes sweat to run into my eyes. Wearing a visor will direct sweat away from my eyes as well as act as a so called brush guard keeping branches away from my eyes while running. I have found wearing sunglasses is tough with the ever changing light conditions, but a visor can limit the sunlight if you hit an unshaded area. Rock Creek has a great logo Headsweats visor that is very stylish off the trail as well. (Shameless plug).


I can’t really fully explain how rewarding it is to volunteer for a trail race or trail building. I would try to tell you how you get this warm and fuzzy feeling but then I have to deal with Jim Farmer posting stupid comments on my Facebook page and I really don’t want that to be the case. Let’s just say it is great to give back to the trail running community. You will meet some way cool people in all shapes and sizes and actually gain inspiration from being around like minded trail people. Sign up to help-you won’t regret it.

Tom Sell is a local masters trail runner and a top notch UFC fighter in his own mind. Questions or comments

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