I have spoken to a lot of my friends over the years about running in the hills and how it is amazing to be up there away from everything and to experience sunrises and sunsets from the top. Most of them think I am crazy and that it is dangerous to be up there with no paths and no one to keep an eye on me. I reply that it is actually a very safe and very rewarding hobby to indulge in in your spare time.
Three common myths I hear:
1. There is no trail therefore it must be really slippy and dangerous. In fact I find it is really good for your joints to be running on nice soft bog that absorbs all of your impact thus helping knees and ankles. All you need is the right equipment such as a set of proper trail running shoes.
2. I might get lost. If you are running in the middle of Dublin you might get lost on the side streets but the trick is to following something easily recognizable until you are happy with your surroundings. In the city it would be a train line or road, out here it is a fence line or tree line. These give you something to follow if you want to get off the beaten track.
3. I might get covered in mud. Actually unless you fall over which you won't with your new trail running shoes the dirtiest you will get is up your calves and knees. It is actually satisfying to go out and run through puddles and along dirt roads. You will even come to enjoy this part of it all and look forward to those long weekend runs in the hills.
On top of all these questions people are only starting to hear about the joys of trail running and it is still an emerging sport so it is great to get outside away from the crowds and clear your head by chasing the summits.
To finish with I will give you my top tips to help get you started:
1. Get trail running shoes. You wouldn't play football in runners so don't trail run in them either. Buy a pair from any outdoor shop and hit the hills. The main thing to look for here is grip, if you are going to be running in stony hills or boggy hills you need a specific trail shoe to help you enjoy it.
2. Start low level and work up. The true joy of trails is summiting the peaks but you need to start small with a couple of easier hills/bumps and then work your way up to the larger mountains. Don't go out on day one and try Mweelrea as this will only dishearten you but have it as a goal in the background.
3. Embrace the downhills. Don't be afraid to go down, it is the only way I ever see myself running less than a 4 minute mile. It is a great way to unleash your inner Roger Bannister and set new PRs.
4. Study your routes . Don't just turn up at the base of a mountain and then figure out how to go up. Look at maps and use Google Earth to get an idea of the route you intend to take. Another great resource is Strava which lets you run out and then return back along this route. Embrace this and GPS technology to open up the hills to you.