If you look at most sports there always seems to be a variety of options when it comes to where you can participate.
Look at football and tennis, both can be played inside or outside and with this brings different surfaces, techniques and different strategies.
In most cases people have a preference between the options available and running is no different.
So what types of running are there?
We can break it down into four main groups.
There is Road Running, Cross Country Running, Track Running and Trail Running
(We also have ultra running and sky running but let start by concentrating on the first four.)
Each one is still within the same category of running: being the action or movement of running but each brings its own unique challenges and rewards.
Take Track running as the first example:
For most of us, this may be the first introduction into competitive running, usually in school. 6-8 runners at a time over 100, 200 & 400m of class competitions, basically running flat out all the way. This is a highly explosive type of running and it requires great consistency, straight line speed and is usually on a flat surface. Only when you extend the distance to 800 meters and above does tactics become part of the race. This was my first taste of running and I used to run barefoot around our schools grass running track.
The Strategy: Run as fast as you can.
The Goal: Try and run faster than everyone else.
Hand in hand with track running would be cross-country running.
Some loved it and some hated it, some hid at different parts of the course and rejoined the group when they came back down a hill. It was again competitive but included maybe your whole class of 30. So this time it required a bit more thought to last the distance. You had to start to manage your output as you usually had 1- 15km to run over uneven ground and most would want to leave a bit for a surge at the end. You also were assessing the other runners to see if they were at their limits or just ready to bolt away. All part of the games that are played when multiple people are competing.
The Strategy: Run as fast as you feel comfortable, assess your fellow runners and make a push at the end.
The Goal: Try finish strong and if all goes well finish first.
Road running, for me at least, came much later.
It is all dependent on where you were born.
For me, I lived in Scotland on a farm so most of my running was on grass and the only road running was occasionally running home from school.
My first real road running was in my 30’s where I was living in a city environment and started to run 5 & 10km fun runs.
These were events like Run for the Kids and City 2 Sea. Large events that drew thousands of competitors, many just want to finish with a few wanting to win. This is when you start to hear the terms elite or Pros being thrown around.
This was the start for me when I realised first hand the huge divide between being a participant and being a competitor.
Usually, in sport, your segregated into groups of competency. And if you improved you move up a level. In mass running events they do this but you all are running on the same day, same course, same conditions.
They just stagger the starts to allow for the elite to get a free run at the course and potential record and also to accommodate a large number of people participating.
I always was intrigued to see how fast the winner had run and then compare my time.
I remember running 29min for my first 5km and the winner did it in 17min.
She was 15 years old, I was 33, she didn’t seem to be tired and I thought I was going to die!
This seemed to be a common trend, the elite times were nearly twice as fast as mine. I competed in the Great Ocean Road Half Marathon and 5 mins after I finished the winner of the full marathon came roaring into the finish line.
I don’t know if it was inspiring or depressing. I certainly found it motivating and also quite intriguing. How could they run so much faster? The result was It made me want to find out more about running and so like any growing passion you start to look for more: More information, more events and more variety.
It’s not quite apparent to me what actually triggered this but one day I saw a flyer for the Salomon Trail Running Series by Rapid Ascent – it was a four-race introductory trail running series which had a variety of distances from 5km-15km.
Spread over 4 months that was no more than 1 hours drive from the city and was on trails rather than roads.
Originally coming from the country I was drawn towards the thought of running off road again so I signed up and eagerly awaited the first event.
From the very first step, I knew this was for me. It was fast and winding up and down through trees and bent river trails, up and down uneven stairs, single track running and no step was the same as the last.
You had to be alert as one wrong step you could be on your arse and potentially in quite a bit of pain.
Remember at the start I said different techniques were needed?
well, Trail running takes more than different techniques it needs different gear. I remember clearly coming running down this single track I was running probably a little too fast and was grabbing trees to stop me from just sliding straight in the river beside me which was only a meter away for the trail.
Reason: Wrong shoes. I was wearing road shoes that had no real grip certainly once a bit of mud was in the grooves so I sliding about like a young calf that had just been born and had not worked out how to stand properly yet. I was on the edge and I loved it.
Lucky no harm came to me that day but I did learn an important lesson in getting the right gear.
Needless to say, I was hooked and went straight after the event to buy my first trail shoes.
This was the start of my ongoing obsession with buying trail running gear! Who said running was cheap.
The Strategy: Have fun, don’t fall over
The Goal: Enjoy the scenery and Finish with a smile.
No matter if you are a track runner, cross country runner, road runner or trail runner the end outcome is the same.
We use our whole body unaided (except our choice of gear) to complete a set distance in the fastest time possible.
We push ourselves to be better and stronger mentally and physically.
But for me its so much more than that.
The journey from the track to the trail has opened my eyes to the endless human potential that we all possess.
I am constantly inspired by the people I meet, by their individual stories, all which are worthy of our attention as much as the beautiful sunrises and mountain views only nature can provide.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Douglas is the Trail Director at FullCourseTrails.
An active Trail photographer and Ultra runner and has competed in many off road distance event.
Events include: The Surf Coast Century, The Roller Coaster marathon, Buffalo Stampede Sky Marathon and The Australian North Face 100 Ultra Marathon.