A Case for Trail Running

What inspires people to run? What could make that heavy-breathing, calves-burning, lumbering movement worth it and why would anyone ever consider taking it up a mountain? I can’t answer for everyone, but I’ll tell you why several times a week I strap on my running shoes and head to the nearby trails.
Samantha Sanders Samantha Sanders
Trail Running Committee
October 19, 2017
A Case for Trail Running
Jump for Joy... and Trail Running!

In the thousands of years before humans created the first sharpened tools, how did we catch the food we needed to survive? According to many if you answered, "We ran it to death (in a technique called persistence hunting)", you’d be correct.

Though I doubt many of us will be chasing elk on foot and weaponless for our next meal, running is an activity that attracts all sorts. What inspires these people to run? What might get you into lighter shoes and on to the trails? What could make that heavy-breathing, calves-burning, lumbering movement worth it and why would anyone ever consider taking it up a mountain? I can’t answer for everyone, but I’ll tell you why several times a week I strap on my running shoes and head to the nearby trails.

See more and see it differently

Ever been hiking/backpacking/outdoor’ing in some other way and found yourself without the time to reach X, that magical place your friend was telling you about? Or pass by a side trail or feature that you would have loved to explore, but instead plod back to the car to make the 4pm cutoff? Many criticize running because you ‘rush by the little things’, but for me those little things are why I run.

The faster I can run, the more I can see/do the trail stuff I really love. That two miles on forests service roads: I could take it or leave it. Running allows me to spend only 16-28 minutes on them giving me an extra 20 minutes to over an hour to spend at the peak, lake, or along the way stalking mysterious insects with my camera. The variety of speeds (because you won’t always run-heck, maybe you’ll just speed walk the trail!) allow you to plan, judge, and think about your route, what you’d like to see, and what you hope to accomplish differently.


Call me a little masochistic, but I enjoy more that which I have to work at to achieve. The mental, physical, and sometimes, emotional stress that goes into an activity changes what I get out of it; running is no different. It usually isn’t considered easy and depending on how you push yourself or who you run with, it may never be easy, but that doesn’t make it bad. It just makes it different and the completion of it, the view in the middle, the beverage/food of your choice at the end, the time spent with your running companions, that much sweeter.


This, of course, varies person to person, but did you know that running on flat surfaces at a 6 mph pace for one hour can burn upwards of 557 calories?[1] Running up stairs; this activity can burn 852 calories per hour. Now, depending on the trail, imagine a combination of the two, but with beautiful scenery and a calming environment. It’s almost as if you could will the calories away by lying on the beach… almost.

In addition, trails are some of the better places to exercise for joints. The type of terrain allows for additional cushion with each step and the movement actually ends up being much less repetitive than with many other sports. The differences in terrain and trail structure play the largest part asking that you be adjusting that stride constantly.


The beauty of when you’re able to find a like-minded bunch of weirdos to share your weirdness with (I know, not the most poetic explanation, but certainly true). Not everyone runs for the same reason, but that doesn’t mean you won’t meet on common ground. Like with any activity that’s spans the different types of fun[2], you’re guaranteed to meet some fantastic folks while doing it.

Thinking time minus boredom

running has always walked a fine line for me. It grants me a different view of my other life events and time to just sort out problems or dream without ‘doing nothing’. That being said, especially with road running, I tend to get bored. It won’t be the first mile, possibly not even the first few, but with step after step of the same thing the monotony wears me down. This is another of the reasons I usually stick to the trails. The slight additional thought needed to dodge a branch, step over a root, or flow around a curve gives me something else to think about. Not to mention, even the same trail can change from one day to another depending on the conditions, pace, or who you’re running with.

It’s fun

Hear me out here. Do you remember when you were a little kid and you’d race down the hill as fast as you could just to feel the wind in your face; to pretend you’re flying? Or when life didn’t have you too caught up to take that ‘side route’ you were curious about or spend extra time looking at a flower? How about a time where you struggled again and again to get/do something, maybe for months, and suddenly, it all just clicked?

Running and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but over the years we’ve worked out our differences. It’s the above, the purity, the freedom, the sense of achievement, the struggle, the speed, the strength, and for hundreds of other reasons I don’t have space to list: all are why I find this sport fun. It’s why I look forward to a sweaty face and heavy breathing and another way I’ve found to love life, the outdoors, and a life outdoors.

Interested in trail running?

Are you a long time veteran or just starting out? We’d love to have you! The Foothills branch is starting up a Trail Running Division of the Mountaineers. We’ll be having our first info session[3] October 23 and would love to see you there! Not able to make it? No problem; we’ll be continuing to have events throughout the year. Just keep your eyes peeled for future events and come run with us!

 RSVP for Oct 23

[1] All estimates are based on one hour of activity for a 125-pound person, as per the 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, and calorie calculations based on that research. If you weight more than 125, you'll burn slightly more calories from these activities. If you weigh less, you burn slightly fewer calories.
[2] Type I: fun while doing, fun after; type 1.5 (the article mentioned and I enjoyed): fun for most/some of the time while doing, fun after; type 2: not fun while doing, fun after; type 3: not fun while doing, not fun after (perhaps a story or lesson learned, though). A little more detail found here: https://www.tetongravity.com/story/adventure/the-three-and-a-half-types-of-fun-explained

[3] For more details, information, and to RSVP check it out here: https://www.mountaineers.org/explore/activities/trail-run-issaquah-brewhouse!

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