Whether it’s for competition, staying in shape or just getting outside, it’s a well-known fact that running is very popular amongst Americans. According to Running USA, nearly 18.3 million Americans registered for road races in 2017. I enjoy running myself and am included in the road race statistics. After recently finishing my second road marathon and having participated in many half marathons, I’m now transitioning into the world of trail running. Like road running, trail running has become increasingly popular in the last 5 years. The popularity and diversity of both running options brings me to the question I’ve been pondering lately. Which one is better?
To begin, I thought I would contrast both options based on my personal experience and discussions with other runners. First of all, road running typically produces more force through your joints whereas trail running allows for more force absorption and less joint compression. Trail running is likely more removed from people while road often allows for running surrounded by more people. Road running promotes maintaining one pace the entirety of the run where trail running requires change of pace based on the terrain.
The contrasts could continue as they are abundant and you will often find runners who identify themselves as one or the other. But maybe one is not better than the other. Maybe the combination of the two allows for a dynamic, well-trained runner. Training on roads to allow for pace increase and training on trails to improve strength of smaller, stabilizing muscles. Training on roads to experience the blissful daydreaming and mind wandering that running allows. Training on trails to sharpen the mind as you constantly look out for rocks and sticks that are there to make you stumble.
I won’t argue one or the other. I will sit happily in the middle of the spectrum, between trail running and road running and promote the benefits of each. More than anything, I will advocate for the benefits of getting outside, getting moving and doing what you love. I for one am excited to begin exploring the beauty of trail running while continuing my running journey on roads.