A Beginner’s Guide To Trail Running
Jungfrau Region's Blogbuster Series / Nr. 63
In the evening in big cities you can often see neon-colored figures flit past you. Are they fireflies? Partygoers from the 80s? No, they're just joggers trying to balance out the stress of everyday life. Top equipped, with the latest Nike shoes on the feet and Apple AirPods in the ears. That's all okay – but wouldn't it be great to change skyscrapers for mountains and asphalt for natural ground? In our region, you can do just that. But it's about something more than jogging, namely Trail Running. You're gonna be thrilled to find out that the Jungfrau Region has everything a Trail Runner could wish for. From easy forest and meadow trails to technically demanding trails in alpine terrain.
But let's start at the beginning. Trails (or paths, tracks) can be found anywhere. No matter if forest, meadow or gravel paths, in nature you can be on the move in many different ways. In principle, everything that's not a paved or marked footpath is a trail. The moment a street runner leaves the sidewalk, she or he becomes a Trail Runner.
That's kind of the main appeal and what Trail Running's all about: Where it takes you. You can reach places you couldn't get to by car. Most trails are gonna take you into nature – you're gonna be able to take a look around, enjoy the outdoors away from cars and busy intersections. Marked paths offer a safe route, but also restrict freedom. While a seemingly endless sidewalk can quickly become a motivation brake for joggers, the possibilities for trail running are manifold. Not knowing which path to take frees your head from stressful thoughts and helps you to relax. On the winding paths, trail runners also train their body in many different ways. In addition to endurance, Trail Running also involves the entire musculoskeletal system. The different surfaces act as a running school – each step strengthens coordination and the ability to react. Through the different ground conditions, the body also learns new movement sequences, which minimizes the risk of injury.
So the main equipment in trail running is your own body, which also adds to the beauty of the sport. Nevertheless, the running experience can be made more comfortable with these tips on gear:
Obviously, shoes are the most important equipment for trail runners. On normal runs you can get by with your street shoes, but as soon as you hit roots, rocks and slippery mud, you'll realize how important it is to have the right shoes. Trail running shoes are generally stronger than street shoes and emphasize traction, foot protection and stability.
Your running wear should be made of moisture-wicking merino wool or synthetics rather than cotton, which is very slow to dry – this also applies to socks. For cool or wet weather, a lightweight rain shell or windbreaker is advisable. Moreover, dressing in layers is a smart approach, especially on longer runs and considering weather changes.
That's the equipment, now to food and drinks:
Water's of course a must for any kinda sport you're doing. You can carry hydration packs, hydration vests, handheld water bottles or waistpacks with water bottles. When going for a shorter run, you'll likely be fine with a handheld water bottle or a small waistpack. You'll be able to carry enough water for the run while also having room to store keys, some cash, your phone and an energy bar or gel. For longer runs, consider a larger carrying option. It's gonna offer more storage for larger amounts of water, extra clothing and other items.
If you'll be out for a couple hours or more you'll want to have a selection of energy food such as bars, gels and chews. Of course, what goes well with your stomach during running is also individual and takes some experimenting. Generally, for shorter, high-intensity runs you'll want to stick with simple energy foods. If you really run longer distances, like ultramarathons, heartier foods are fine too, as you'll notice – because you're typically moving at a slower pace.
Besides drinking and snacks, here are some other items you might wanna carry with you: Sun protection (sunscreen, lip balm, hat), first-aid kit with necessary essentials, maps.
Finally, a few points concerning running technique:
The rougher terrain and uneven paths slow you down and activate muscles you didn't even know you have. So start slowly and don't commit to a distance you're not prepared for. Unlike road running, you should use a short stride – especially for when terrain steepens. Maintain your cadence by taking small, frequent steps. During uphills, avoid the temptation to lean forward as this can reduce your ability to breathe effectively. On downhills, avoid leaning back as this can strain your body and lead to injury. If a trail's super steep, don't worry – it's allowed to walk.
In effect, Trail Running provides better strength training benefits for the legs compared to road running. The soft surface creates less impact and grinding on your joints, and it helps by varying the stress on your body.
By the way, at «Backdoor Shop» in Grindelwald you can test material for free. The staff there will be happy to help you find the right choice of shoes, walking sticks or backpacks and give you more inside knowledge on Trail Running.
We're just casually gonna drop 3 tour suggestions around Grindelwald for beginners here:
#1 GRINDELWALD TRAIL 3
This tour offers ideal training conditions. With a length of 8.4 kilometers and 610 meters of ascent altitude, it's the perfect tour for beginners or anyone who wants to do a shorter but intensive lap. After the start in the village, a crisp ascent in the direction of Aellfluh soon follows. The effort is rewarded with a fantastic view of the valley.
Duration: About 2 hours
Highest / lowest point: 1039m / 1590m
Directions: Village - Bodmi - Aellfluh - Holenwang - village
#2 GRINDELWALD TRAIL 13
This training lap firstly leads to the «Marmorbruch», above the well-known glacier gorge. From there, the trail climbs up to Pfingstegg, where there's a family-friendly restaurant with a playground. If you like, you can also take the gondola back down to the valley. To run the entire route, follow the trail through the 150 metre long «Breitlowina» tunnel. Afterwards, the trail goes through the «Vitaparcour» (you can stop for some additional workout) back to Grindelwald. With a northern orientation, the tour's particularly suitable in midsummer, when all the snow fields have melted away.
Duration: About 2 hours and 40 minutes
Highest / lowest point: 977m / 1391m
Directions: Village - Marmorbruch - Pfingstegg - Ob. Gletscher - village
#3 EIGER ULTRA TRAIL E16 - PLEASURE TRAIL NR. 11
The E16 is the perfect pleasure trail. Thanks to the southern exposure, the trail is snow-free from April to November. As with all routes, the start's in Grindelwald. The difference in altitude of this round tour is 960 metres. 11km of the distance lead along hiking and forest paths. The remaining 5km are asphalted roads. The view on this route, with the Wetterhorn north face, the Eiger and the Kleine Scheidegg, makes you forget the strain.
Duration: About 3 hours and 20 minutes
Highest / lowest point: 1646m / 1034m
Directions: Village - Oberer Gletscher - Berien - Bort - Hoelwang - village
All these trails are round tours – starting and finishing points are at the Grindelwald Sports Centre. Most trails are generally accessible from May to October, sometimes even from April to November. However, in the mountains you can never fully rely on the weather – sometimes there's still snow in the higher areas during early summer or winter knocks on the door early in autumn. In any case, we always reccommend to inform yourself about current trail conditions and note the local weather forecast.
Furthermore, some Trail Running routes are also popular hiking trails. In the high season (July/August) and at weekends they can be heavily frequented. Apart from giving priority to the hikers on the trails, here are some other rules to follow:
- Stay on the existing trails, local farmers will appreciate it
- Be considerate of mountain bikers, animals and protected areas
- Leave no traces, dispose of your garbage
If you're running in an unfamiliar area, don't forget navigational tools such as a map and compass or, additionally, a GPS unit. In addition, you can use basic sport watches or high-end watches with GPS, track distance and speed or heart rate monitor – that's up to you. Flashlights or headlamps might also be of use – in the mountains it can get dark earlier than expected.
A final rule that's important when you're running alone: Logically, you don't always have the best mobile phone reception on remote trails. If you inform someone (for example the hotel reception) where you'll be running and approx. what time you'll return, you have a backup in place should you find yourself injured or in danger and unable to immediately call for help.
First Trail Running experiences in Grindelwald? This can be perfectly combined with a nice overnight stay. Hotel staff can give you information on various trails and help you plan your routes. You can ask for an Early Bird breakfast, if you wanna get going around sunrise. Most hotels also offer a laundry service for your Trail Running outfit.
Man, that was a lot about Trail Running. And we're not even sporty, come on, we're working in an office (just kidding, we love our region's nature and actually have some sports machines in our team). As mentioned, the people at the Tourist Info, hotels and sports shops are there for you – there are even local Trail Running guides.
We hope we could inspire you a little for the topic. It doesn't matter whether you're an absolute beginner or an experienced professional – it's about having fun and being outdoors.