I have become a master at falling down on trails. To my credit, 95% of my training is now on rocky trails. All of last year, I can count on one hand the training I did on trails. At the end of the day, it is still my fault. Each time I have fallen it has been a toe catching a rock. What follows is a gracious launch forward, a hard thump, and going for distance sliding across dirt/rock. On the most recent run with my dog, I succeeded in shaving off the top layer of skin. I would rather have my leg cutoff then the removal of skin. Fortunately, my dog came back to me and see if I was okay. He may have been able to carry me out. Then again, this 11 mile run was the longest he’s ever completed.
My most famous fall is at mile 20 of my first 50 mile race, and went ahead to climb 6,000 more feet to finish. I thought I would outline some best practices:
1. Be aware of your footing
Anytime I start to kick rocks, I sing a song called “Keep Your Toes In The Air.”
Anything Something that reminds me to pick up my toes so they don’t get tripped up by rocks. For the most part this is my focus on downhills. Flats and ups I’m usually okay with, but always a good thing to remember.
2. Lift your knees
When I get tired on the trail, I tend to get into a foot shuffle. This is where I barely lift my feet off the ground while moving forward. That strategy is fine on pavement, but not on a trail. When I start to notice I’m feeling weary (more than usual), I focus on lifting my knees. Not too high, but up close to my hips. It’s a bit of an exaggerated move with the goal to get body into a better rhythm.
3. Tuck and Roll
When I do start to feel me going down, arms immediately go around my head. On trails, there’s a good chance that you will fall onto or slide into a rock. Most of the time I don’t know I’m falling so I get as close as I can. On one winter run, I was heading down a trail and hit an ice patch. I had enough time to call out “Going Down!” and did a Hollywood-style tuck and roll. I really need a camera crew following me around.
Basically, it’s important to practice what might happen on a trail. Falling down is definitely one of them, so if you fall, just get up and keep going. It’s all part of the journey.