Last Spring, I was driving into a desert mountain preserve, outside of Scottsdale, AZ, to watch my husband compete in a bike race when I noticed a calendar on the side of the pay-booth announcing an Xterra trail race the following day. A trail race…hmmm…I’d never done a trail race before.

The next morning, I woke up bright and early, tied on my running shoes, grabbed my ear-buds and had my husband drive me up to the trailhead. I decided that since I’d had absolutely NO preparation besides my normal morning runs, I’d do the short track…4 miles, totally doable.

As the other runners and I waited, huddled around the bonfire, we heard the announcement that ear-buds were not allowed on the course for safety. So that’s how it was gonna be. Brutal or not, it was gonna be just me and the run, no Chris Brown to drown out the pain.

Something I learned early on in that race was that trail running was different. On a trail, you often find yourself on a single-track, one person ahead of you, one behind, and you talk. You talk to break the silence, to make the time go by faster. Because you are concentrating on the terrain constantly, scanning for footholds and avoiding hazards, you are totally unable to let your mind wander. So, in trail running, you talk…at least I did:) For the first time, I got to really enjoy the runners, not just the run.

A few weeks later, I ran my first off-road 10k (a bit more prepared, this time) which, to this day, is the hardest race I’ve done.

It was in the weeks leading up to that 10k and in the weeks that have followed, as I run the AZ trails where I live, that I have found what I consider to be the ‘staples’ of trail running;

  1. Trail-running shoes- The main difference between trail-running shoes and regular running shoes are the soles. While running shoes have a smoother sole and may cause slipping on dirt and rock, the thicker, nubbier soles of trail running shoes will grip the trail. Trail running shoes are also made of a heftier material, helping them to stand up to the rough conditions and giving added foot and ankle support. I love my Brooks Adrenalines.
  2. Sunscreen- Whether you’re on the road or on the trails, face sunscreen is a must to ward off burning and pre-mature aging. You never want anyone to know you’re a runner based on the texture and lines of your face. Rodan + Fields Broad Spectrum Sunscreen is amazing.
  3. Hairbands- The reason I love my American Apparel cotton twist scarves so much is because (a.) They have wire that allows them to twist and stay any way I choose. I can even tie one around my head, twist at the neck, and tie up a ponytail at the bottom, and (b.) They are super wide so I can pull mine over my ears if its chilly, or scrunch it up if I’d like. They’re, hands-down, my favorite workout headbands on the market.
  4. Lip Balm- No matter what the temperature, your lips will get dry if you properly breath out of your mouth while running. I have an EOS lip balm in my purse, one in my pool bag, and one in my gym bag. I can’t say enough about these balms. And, the Lemon Drop flavor has added SPF for your outdoor runs.
  5. Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!!- Did I say hydration? Always assume you’ll be out there longer than you think. There are so many different ways to tote water that, I say, just choose which one you like best. I prefer the handheld kind like this one from Nathan. There are also Camelbacks, and hydration belts for those who like their hands completely free of anything. (Remember, you may need to be able to grab onto rocks from time to time.)
  6. Phone and music player- BRING YOUR PHONE! Not to scare you, but it is important for both someone to be able to get a hold of you, as well as you being able to call out. Accidents happen and when you are off the beaten path, a fully-charged cell phone is a NECESSITY! Pandora is just an added bonus:)

Now, get out there and enjoy the world you live in!

*photos from ecbloom.com, roadrunnersports.com, rodanandfields.com, ammericanapparel.com, evolutionofsmooth.com