Wake up your run routine
Some of us have been running 5Ks since Clinton was president. All right, fine, since Bush 41, but we're all spring chickens here. Our times on these runs have varied, as have the routes. We've pounded pavement through scenic cities, lovely vistas, and all kinds of elements. But, if we can be really real? We're kind of bored. There are only so many times you can run 3.1 miles and still get a buzz at the finish line. If you're nodding in agreement, check out these two new racing trends that will make your heart beat a little faster (and not just from exertion):
Nighttime trail running
The name says it all: running on trails at night. Practitioners rely on headlamps, sturdy ankles and guts to traverse woodsy trails in the dark. It's thrilling and scary, and has a practical aspect: It can help you log longer runs.
"Not knowing where I'm going in an outward and visual sense helps me [to] not focus on how long I've been running," said Andia Winslow, a professional athlete who trained with the USA Track & Field team under Jesse Owens. Winslow became a fan of nighttime trail running when she was looking for a way to continue her training runs and squeeze in extra practice time. "I often have far too much that needs to be completed during daylight hours to fit in an extended run," she said. "And honestly, nighttime trail running feels like an adventure more than the chore associated with typical runs."
Get started: Browse city, state or federal park maps online for trails of interest, Winslow said. "Test-hike, walk or jog them during daylight to familiarize yourself with the terrain and make certain that it's a good fit for your running style." You can also scan trail running blogs to get ratings of trails, and to find meet-up groups in your area. Once you're ready to hit the trail, be sure to bring an extra layer of clothing (weather can get colder when the sun goes down), a headlamp, a cell phone with GPS, a compass (in case you go out of reach of GPS), and water. Bringing a buddy is also a good idea, or at the very least, Winslow suggests telling a friend or family member exactly where you're going and for how long every time you run.
Find a race: With the long daylight hours of summer just around the corner, the next upcoming races are more in the dusk than dark. Scroll through the comprehensive American Trail Runner's Association calendar for evening events, or Google "nighttime trail running race."
Think mountain-running on crack. A sport that originated in the U.K., fell running is the equivalent of off-roading on foot ("fell" is a term for mountain in parts of Northern Britain.) Participants use navigational skills, sheer determination, and steel guts to take on the slopes of mountainous terrain. They all start at the same point, but take their own routes to reach the finish line.
It's physically demanding, but also spiritually uplifting. "When you're fell running alone in the hills, it's a very freeing experience," said Paul Cornforth, the team captain of the Borrowdale Fell Runners Club in the U.K. "There are no car engines, fumes, or even other people -- it's just you and the mountain ridge," he said. "There's nothing better."
Get started: Invest in a pair of sneakers with really good grip like Inov-8 Mudclaws.
Then find a mountain or hilly area near you (fell runners often take the "non-marked" path, but starting out, you might want to stick to the trails). "Try walking up and down the hill first to get a feel for the terrain," Cornforth said. "Then go back and try to jog up and down it. Take it slowly and keep your breathing in check. It's all about setting a pace that you're comfortable with and taking smaller steps if you're struggling. If you keep at it you will improve quite quickly and pretty soon you can start timing yourself up and down the hill."
Find a race: Teeny detail we should mention. The races all take place across the pond. Yes, that's England. Fell running hasn't caught on in the U.S., so you'll have to head to the U.K., where there are nearly 100 races every year. Go to fellrunner.org for a complete list.