Is trail running dangerous

Trail running - running pro Martina reports

Martina started with running in 2006 in a very classic way to lose weight. She discovered her love for trail running in 2012 when the first Hartfüßlertrail started in Saarland. Martina quickly became infected with trail fever. Because even before that, she preferred to run in the forest. Their first official trail was the 30-kilometer EcoTrail de Paris 2013. The first ultra runs soon followed. Martina now runs almost exclusively on trails and only rarely on road runs. Martina writes about her great passion on her blog.

What is trail running?
Trail running - a new phenomenon?
Entry into trail running
Where can I find trail running routes?
Trail running is adventure!
More variety than on the street
What are the challenges for runners?
Is trail running dangerous?
Is trail running a burden on nature?
Is there competition for the routes?
What do I have to consider when trail running?
Upcoming trail running events

What is trail running?

In German, trail running means as much as landscape running. And that pretty much describes what is in the foreground in trail running - the experience of nature. Because a trail (in German: path or path) leads through the middle of dense forests or stony mountain landscapes. In contrast to cross-country running, in which a marked parkour of one or two kilometers is completed, in trail running already existing paths are run over a longer distance.

Martina describes her passion like this: “For me, trail running is pure enthusiasm for nature. I love to walk on narrow paths, to cross paths with flocks of sheep, to experience animals in the wild and to be part of the surrounding nature myself. "

In contrast to a city run, which is mainly about speed and personal progress, trail running is much more diverse: “This is where technology and overcoming fears come together. For example, it goes over wobbly suspension bridges and narrow single trails that are just wide enough for a mountain bike. The supply of food and drinks on the route is also important, as is the question: Where is the nearest Dixie toilet? "


Trail running - a new phenomenon?

Some popular events have existed for several years, such as the Les Crêtes Vosgiennes trail run in the Vosges, which will be held for the 43rd time in 2018. “Trail running has only become really popular as a sport in the last ten to 15 years. In the past four to five years we have even experienced a real boom, " explains Martina.

There is as yet no association specifically for trail running. However, the German Ultra Marathon Association (DUV) organizes the German championships in the ultra trail. Internationally there is the ITRA and in Austria the ATRA.

Entry into trail running

Official competition tracks are all over the world. From alpine glaciers to dust-dry desert landscapes, everything is included. If you are looking for suitable training routes in your area, you should make sure that the route is more demanding than your normal jogging route. The competition distances are sometimes over 100 kilometers and run through technically demanding terrain. For optimal training conditions, it is therefore worthwhile to go to the nearest mountain range.

Martina knows from her own experience that trail running can be started as with any other sport through a slow increase: “You don't choose the hardest routes or the extremely technical surface straight away. If you come from street sports, forest paths and simple single trails are a good start and a nice change. The technical demands with rubble and roots as well as extreme inclines and declines are gradually increased ”.

The external conditions and the equipment of the runner also play a role: “The weather-dependent nature of the ground makes every trail exciting anew - no matter how often you have run it. The wetter and slippery the track gets, the more experienced you should be if you don't want to fall. In addition to the exercise, the equipment also plays a role. As I said: It's like any sport, you don't start in winter in the Alps, but really in the forest on your doorstep when the weather is good.

Where can I find trail running routes?

Trail running beginners will find it easy to find suitable routes. Because they can be found almost everywhere: “For example, you can look for hiking trails on the tourism page of your home region. Mountain bike trails can also be a good choice for an off-road run. Apps such as Strava or sites such as Tracedetrail or Gpsies also give good tips every now and then as to where you can run great. Some regions now even offer their own apps for trail running in the Alps or the Vosges as well as signposted routes ", reports Martina.

By the way, Martina's favorite route was the 112-kilometer Ultra Mallorca Serra de Tramuntana. She very much regrets that it no longer exists: “That is a shame, because it was really an incomparable experience - the breathtaking landscape of the Tramuntana, and the maddening atmosphere along the way. I love running on Mallorca and that was definitely my favorite route and my favorite trail area. " Although the run is no longer officially organized, the trails of the Balearic Island are still among the most popular routes for athletes.

Trail running is adventure!

According to Martina, the immense variety of trail running is the biggest plus point compared to other running sports, because: "Trail running is adventure!" She had to be rescued from the track by an off-road vehicle in a sudden storm. It can also happen that in the mountains the snow line falls by 2,000 meters within an hour. She also had to watch as some of her fellow soldiers were attacked by a horde of wasps.

More variety than on the street

Apart from that, the muscular load is not as monotonous as in a road run: “You regenerate faster, train your balance, strain more muscles and work in a more varied way overall. Not to forget: With all the modern hectic with electronic stuff, chasing the best times, the trail is unique every day. Because the weather, the light conditions, obstacles from trees and water holes as well as the nature of the ground make the same route within a week a completely different experience. The street just can't do that. "

Is trail running dangerous?

Of course, running on difficult terrain also offers more risks of falling or injuring yourself. Martina explains: “In alpine terrain or remote areas, it is therefore better not to be alone and you should also have a cell phone with you. When you go on longer tours, it doesn't hurt to let them know where you are in advance. When training in the high mountains on vacation, some hosts even want to know what they are planning so that they can inform the mountain rescue service if necessary. Because in addition to the risk of injury, a sudden change in weather is also a risk - especially alone in the mountains. "

Martina experienced such a change in weather on the Maremontana Trail in 2014. After starting out on the sandy beach in sunshine, the weather in the mountains changed suddenly. Suddenly it was pitch dark and a threatening thunderstorm was approaching from the opposite Monte Carmo. Heavy hail was followed by heavy snowfall, which Martina's thin gloves and waterproof jacket could not cope with. With the last of her strength and shivering from the cold, she reached the next marshals. An all-terrain vehicle of the Red Cross finally transported them and the rest of the runners back to the valley, where the snow turned into rain.

What are the challenges for runners?

Martina cannot see any real disadvantages in trail running. However, the sport requires more complex planning and preparation: “You have to deal more intensively with the route and the elevation profile, and devote more time to planning your own food and equipment. On the other hand, everything is clear on the road: flat, there is food every few kilometers. The support is easy to do and easy to reach on the route. "

All of this is a little different and more special in the area, "But in my opinion also much nicer for those who take it upon themselves", thinks Martina. "Because in addition to the trail runner, the supporters also come to scenic corners that they would otherwise never have seen."

Although the harmony with nature is what makes trail running for Martina, now and then she has a guilty conscience: "When I see startled deer or squirrels racing through the woods, however, I sometimes feel more like a troublemaker."


Is trail running a burden on nature?

Of course, when it comes to trail running, the question arises whether nature is being impaired by the runners. Martina can, however, appease: “Trail runners are usually very close to nature.What you take with you into nature comes back home with you - no gel packets are thrown away in the forest and at many events there are also no plastic cups to avoid the mountain of rubbish, as we know it from major street events. Of course, like everywhere else, there are idiots who do not respect nature, but the majority of the trail community deals sustainably with the environment when doing sports. On the trails and in the mountains you usually meet like-minded people who also pursue their passion there. The more remote or alpine the terrain becomes, the greater the mutual consideration. "

Is there competition for the routes?

Many trails are also popular with mountain bikers and forest trails are often used for family outings. Martina knows that the competition for the best routes offers a certain potential for conflict: “You can accidentally get caught in a mountain bike racing event or on a downhill slope - then as a runner you just have to make sure that you get away quickly. If you don't understand or get annoyed, you are more likely to come across the large forest path on a beautiful Sunday full of people walking with dogs on a family tour. The opinion then prevails that the forest has been booked for the family in rows of four or that the dog does not need to be on a leash. "

What do I have to consider when trail running?

Because of its many facets, the sport makes special demands on the running technique and equipment of the runners.


The running technique is of course comparable to a road run in flat and slightly ascending or descending passages, explains Martina: “That's why good road runners are always far ahead on easy trails. It looks a little different when it goes steeply uphill or downhill. Here the technology differs drastically. Uphill, completely different muscle groups have to work depending on the incline and you quickly switch from straining your calves to straining your quadriceps. "

Martina reports: “Often times people complain of knee pain as a result of walking downhill. But that is not a question of descent, but of trusting yourself. You have to roll it and let it run. The risk of getting injured is no longer, it is actually lower - it just takes effort and takes practice. "


The right trail running equipment depends entirely on the route. For longer journeys, Martina generally recommends taking something to drink with you: “When going into the mountains, especially high mountains, you should definitely bring a jacket and, depending on the temperature, a headband or a hat and gloves with you. Even a little something to eat and a rescue blanket shouldn't be missing. "The softshell jackets from owayo were specially developed for temperatures between +10 degrees and -10 degrees and are therefore ideally suited for the mountains.

The most important components are listed here:

• Trail running shoes
• Breathable running clothes (weather-dependent, multi-layered)
• Rain and wind protection
• Running or compression socks
• Headband, buffs
• gloves
• Backpack / Camelback
• Drinking system, drinking bottle
• Food (energy gel, energy bars, bananas)
• Fitness watch / running watch / GPS
• Mobile phone


It all depends on the right shoe

For beginners who only use forest trails, normal jogging shoes are completely sufficient, reports Martina. In the terrain it looks a bit different: “As with car tires, there are various, perfectly coordinated profiles and rubber compounds for different surfaces and weather conditions. In muddy terrain you run with completely different shoes than in mountains with a lot of scree or on dry, sandy slopes. "

Since the weather can change very quickly, especially in the mountains, you should rely on a flexible shoe model: “When it comes to choosing shoes, there are models that, as all-rounders, combine the strengths of different models. They do worse than special models in individual disciplines such as mud, snow or sand, but offer a good compromise when the weather changes or unforeseen passages. In addition, there are spikes for snow with buckles or gaiters to put on when it gets very wet. "

Map, GPS, compass and Co.

The further you move away from densely populated areas, the more important it becomes to be able to orientate yourself. Martina warns: “In addition to the well-known dangers in the high mountains, a forest area of ​​100 square kilometers can also be a problem. Proper preparation with maps, GPS tracks on the watch or very modern maps on the GPS watch are ways to keep yourself from getting lost. The good old compass is also a good choice. "

Practice beforehand

No matter what you choose: You should practice with it. Otherwise, in an emergency, you will find that you don't know exactly how the track-back function works on the watch, or that the maps for this holiday region are not on the watch or that you have never navigated with a compass or map : "So it's best to test the equipment on a known route to see whether it works there," advises Martina.

Current maps

When it comes to hiking maps, you should always buy the new version: “In Mallorca, for example, hiking trails often lead along private paths, the use of which is permitted by the owner (sometimes for a fee). If the owner changes or if he changes his mind, you quickly face an insurmountable obstacle and, in the worst case, have to go back the same long way. "

Upcoming trail running events

Trail runners shouldn't miss these events in the coming months.

International events

The following trails in Morocco, Portugal, France and Switzerland should not be missed.

Zagora Sahara Trail: November 12, 2017

The routes of the Zagora Sahara Trail run through the middle of the Moroccan desert. Nevertheless, the trail is incredibly varied. This is ensured by palm groves, high plateaus and the typical villages. The full distance is 52 kilometers, the shorter routes 10 or 27 kilometers.

Madeira Island Ultratrail: April 28, 2018

On the Portuguese island of Madeira there is the Madeira Island Ultratrail, which can be started at various points on the island. The full distance is 115 kilometers. The shorter variants are 86 kilometers, 40 kilometers and 17 kilometers long.

Verdon Canyon Challenge: 23.-22. June 2018

The south of France is one of the most popular destinations for trail runners. The route leads around the Lac du Croix and through the Verdon Gorge. The running distances of the Verdon Canyon Challenge are 80, 60, 30 or 10 kilometers.

Eiger Ultra Trail: 13. – 15. July 2018

The Eiger Ultra Trail runs through the middle of the Swiss Alps. Even experienced trail runners will be amazed by the backdrop of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. If the ultra distance of over 101 kilometers is too long for you, you can choose between 51 kilometers or 35 kilometers. A trial distance of 16 kilometers is also available for beginners.

Trail running routes in Germany

The local climes also offer great trails.

Wiesenttal Trail: June 10, 2018 and September 2, 2018

Franconian Switzerland is very popular with trail runners. This is mainly due to the Wiesenttal Trail. The route runs over 22 kilometers and, with an altitude of 1,000 meters, offers ideal training conditions for demanding alpine runs. The places Muggendorf and Streitberg are also among the oldest climatic health resorts in Germany.

Chiemgauer 100: 27.-29. July 2018

Also in Bavaria - more precisely near Ruhpolding - is the route of the Chiemgauer 100. However, the ultra run is known far beyond the borders of the Free State and, with a length of 141 kilometers, 100 kilometers or 80 kilometers, is one of the more demanding competitions. Since the starting places are very popular, you should register early.

Shoe Workers "Hard Trail": August 4th, 2018

The Shoe Workers “Hard Trail” in the Palatinate is part of the Wasgau Cup. The run owes its name to the workers in the shoe factories in Hauenstein, who in the 19th century took the arduous route on foot every day to get to their place of work.

Hartfüßlertrail: August 26, 2018

The Hartfüßlertrail takes place in Martina's home in Saarland and is very suitable for trail beginners. It starts in Von der Heydt, Saarbrücken. The route runs over the distances of 7.5 kilometers, 14 kilometers, 30 kilometers and 58 kilometers.

We hope that we were able to give you exciting information about trail running and thank Martina very much for the interview. You can also find out everything about jogging in winter in our magazine.

Pictures: Cover picture: © iStock / lzf, picture 1: © Martina, picture 2: © iStock / Nattrass, picture 3: © gettyimages / mihtiander, picture 4: © iStock / blyjak, picture 5: © gettyimages / PeopleImages, picture 6: © iStock / piola666