If you followed the BRC Memorial Day shenanigans you may have noticed some activity from the Maine countryside. A few of us participated in the L.L. Bean Trail Running Festival at Pineland Farms, an event that many in the Club have enjoyed through the years. They offer a kids race, 5K, 10K, and canicross (runner with leased dog) race on Saturday, then on Sunday folks can run one, two, or three laps around the 25K trail course. It was a bit grueling at times but a lot of fun and filled with friendly runners and volunteers (more so than most road races IMO). Also, a couple weeks ago we had a Saturday morning destination run on the trails around Kenoza Lake in Haverhill. Good times and casualties were limited.
To those who say, “I’m no trail runner,” you shouldn’t be intimidated to try it, but there are a few things to consider when heading off the pavement:
- Slow down. Depending on the trails and elevation you can expect your pace to be 1-2 minutes per mile slower than your asphalt equivalent. Trails twist and turn sharply, and change slope much more quickly and frequently than road courses. Also, irregular services of dirt, rocks, roots, and grass make for less efficient running. Take your time and don’t get hung up on your splits.
- Pay attention. Unlike the smooth predictable terrain on roads, trails are filled with the unexpected. Some routes are very technical with pronounced roots, big rocks, and even stream crossings. Others are wide and consistent “fire roads-” hard packed dirt or gravel roads designed for maintenance vehicles, an old stagecoach line, or some other use. You’ll need to pay close attention to what’s in front of you when planning foot location and pick up your toes or you will quickly find yourself catching on a root, tripping, or stumbling. The good news: a fall on the trails is usually a lot softer and less damaging that a road or sidewalk, and it makes for a good story. If it happens (which isn’t uncommon for trail newbies and veterans alike), just take a moment to assess the damage and get back to it with a slower approach.
So if you missed the recent action, get away from the noisy cars and give it a go this summer. Assuming you don’t tackle a highly technical, steep, slippery route, you’ll be fine in regular running shoes, and if you enjoy it on a regular basis you can look into getting a pair of trail shoes (which are also great when running in rain, snow, or icy conditions on the roads). There is a nice little network of trails at Weir Hill and Osgood Hill (on the west side of Lake Cochichewick by Edgewood Retirement Community and Stevens Estate) in North Andover that reward you with great views from the top, and several others that are well maintained and fairly easy to navigate. For more info on local trails, check out the FONAT (Friends of North Andover Trails) website, or pick up their little map book available at a local shops.
Happy trails and stay speedy my friends.
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