Trail Running 101: How to Trail Run Safely

What are the Risks?

To be fair, there are risks any time you leave your home — road running also has its share of dangers. But trail running mixes in additional factors. The major risk on most trail runs is an injury or medical emergency. This could come from a trip or fall, for example, or hypothermia from getting caught in a storm you’re not prepared for. Dehydration from not packing enough water or an attack from an animal (or person) are some other possibilities. Often, these types of events in the outdoors occur in a cascade. For example, if you get lost and are stuck out on the trail longer than you expected, you’ll be more likely to run out of food and water, or suffer hypothermia because you weren’t prepared for the time out in the cold. One danger (e.g., getting lost) can cause others, which can compound.

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Make a plan, let someone else know about it — and stick to it

To avoid getting lost (often the first in a cascade of bad situations), know where you’re going. If in unfamiliar terrain, carry a map and/or navigation device, like your phone. Make sure that access to your digital information still works offline in case you’re out of cell range. Let a trusted friend know where you’re going and when you expect to be back, and then stick to your plan.

Go with a buddy

Running with a buddy won’t necessarily, say, keep you from twisting an ankle, but in the case that you’re debilitated for some reason, a buddy can go for help. Running with a buddy — and talking and making noise — can also be safer if bears or other wildlife are around.