Last Updated on September 12, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP
Crisp air. Brightly colored, falling leaves. Pumpkin spice Clif Bars (it’s a real thing!) Trail running in the fall is a welcomed reprieve from the hot, humid, summer months, and a last chance effort to get in miles before the frigid winter arrives.
If you live in a similar climate to ours here in Myrtle Beach, you probably think a post about trail running in the fall feels a little premature. I agree: as I write this post, temperatures are still hovering near 90 degrees. The only telling signs that a season change is near is the onslaught of pumpkin spiced everything, Halloween candy suddenly lining the shelves of all of the stores, and the fact that the kids have reluctantly gone back to school already.
In other parts of the country however, the leaves are already starting to change and the crisp early morning air is a reminder that fall is just around the corner. With the transition of seasons comes a handful of new safety concerns to keep in mind while running on the trail.
Trail Running in the Fall: What You Need to Know:
Watch Your Step
Careful footing is already something most trail runners are aware of, as trails rarely provide the flat, uniform surface we are accustomed to on pavement. However, in the fall, trails are now covered in a fresh layer of newly fallen leaves, hiding rocks, roots, and holes that are just waiting to catch your ankles or send you flying. Not to mention, leaves that are wet from either rain or even early morning dew can be incredibly slippery. Be extra aware of your foot placement, especially in areas heavily covered in leaves.
Pay Attention to Where You Are Going
Trails can look different in the fall and winter once the trees have shed their leaves, and other plants or shrubs that you may have used as a visual marker before have shriveled up or completely disappeared for the winter. Further, the aforementioned leaves that cover the trails can completely camouflage a single track or an unexpected turn on the trail. Be extra aware of where you are going, look for trail blazes and other signs to make sure you are staying on trail (and on the correct trail).
Wear Brightly Colored Clothing
For many parts of the country, fall is synonymous with hunting season. If you run in more rural areas, chances are you’ll be traversing through some wooded areas that are open to various hunting seasons. These seasons vary by location (and game and/or weapon type), and unfortunately, some irresponsible hunters may even find themselves on protected land that prohibits hunting. In my opinion, it’s better to be safe than sorry: wear brightly colored clothing to signify to hunters that you are in fact a runner, and not a: deer, moose, bear, partridge, bigfoot, etc.
In the cooler months of the fall, the weather can change very quickly. One minute it’s so hot and muggy, it still feels like summer. The next, cloud cover and a rain storm can bring dangerously cool temps. Further, the daylight hours become increasingly shorter and shorter. When the sun sets, the temperatures can drop quickly.
The best way to combat finicky mother nature in the fall is to wear (or pack) layers that you can easily take off or put on, based on your temperature needs.
Runners tend to be very aware of the importance of staying hydrated during the unbearable, hot, summer months. As the weather cools and running becomes more comfortable (and less sweaty), it can become easier to forget to maintain healthy hydration levels. When it’s cooler, we are less likely to constantly reach for hydrating sips of water. While your need for hydration may decrease slightly during the cooler months, it is still important to properly hydrate before, during, and after each workout. Even though the weather isn’t as uncomfortable, it is still important to bring – and use – a hydration source while trail running in the fall.
Carry A Light Source
The days are rapidly becoming shorter and shorter, meaning less daylight to run in, especially if you hit the trails in the early morning or evening. Another case of “better to be safe than sorry”, if you find yourself out on the trails later than expected as darkness sets in, you’ll be glad you tossed that headlamp into your hydration pack.
In short: dress for all types of weather, don’t be mistaken for a deer, and watch your step! Making small changes to your trail running approach will help you effortlessly transition your miles into the next season.
Have any fall trail running tips to share? Comment below!