1. Your Pace. Don’t expect your pace on the trail to be the same as on a road. With trail running the terrain often dictates your pace. Sometimes you can go fast, sometimes you have to go slow. How much you’re climbing, the elevation on the trail, and how technical the trail is are all big factors in your pace. I have different PR categories for trail races for this reason. If I didn’t, all of my PRs would be from road races.
4. Wildlife. Know the animals that are in your habitat and know how to handle them, if needed. For example, in Monterey we had mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, rattle snakes (among other snakes), deer, and dusty footed rats. I preferred to run with friends because I knew most of these animals wouldn’t attack a group of people. On your own you’re an easier target. In Okinawa, you’ll have the habu snake to look out for. Habu are territorial but they're also nocturnal so your chances of running into them in the daytime are much less. Knowing what to look out for, what to avoid and how to handle whatever creature that might come your way will help you to be more confident and prepared.
6. Run with Friends. There is safety in numbers, not just from animal attacks but from people attacks too. Running with friends is always a great idea. If you need to run alone, arm yourself properly in whatever way you feel fit and don’t wear earphones so you can hear if someone or something is approaching.
7. On the Trail. After you cross an intersection or make a turn, turn around and look behind you to get your bearings. You will be glad you did on your way back because things don’t always look the same from a different angle. You can also use trail tape to mark your way. Mark before the intersection and then again after. Pick up your trail tape when you’re done so you leave no trace in the wilderness. Trail tape is thin colored plastic that can be ripped and hung up like a ribbon. You can buy it pretty much anywhere, like at Walmart or the exchange or an outdoor store.
9. Know the local insects. Some areas have a high tick population for example. Ticks can carry blood born diseases. I have a ritual after trail running where I go right into the house and up to the shower. I don’t sit down on the couch, I don’t stretch in the front yard, etc. I get inside, take my clothes off inside-out and shower. While I’m showering I’m making sure to use good soap to wash off any poison ivy or sumac I may have come into contact with. I also do a quick tick check and look/feel for ticks.
11. Take Pictures! The trail is SO beautiful! You will be seeing sights that can only be seen on foot. Treasure the memories and take as many photos as you like. My only regret has always been that I didn’t take MORE pictures. So take more pictures rather than less. A few years later when you’ve moved and you can no longer run those same trails, you’ll thank me! Relax, enjoy nature, and take photos.
12. HAVE FUN! Trail running is the most interesting, engaging and satisfying running I’ve ever done. You’re never bored. You’re constantly met with new challenges and obstacles, even when you’re running the same trails. You’ll finish your run relaxed, refreshed and re-energized. So get out there and have some fun!