"Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and pull the plug if needed"
Overall trail running is a very safe endeavor but as trails become more technical, locations become more remote and runs become longer, there are more safety considerations to keep in mind.
Runs that exceed 90mins need consideration of things like hydration and nutrition for most people. This is relatively simple in many neighborhoods, ensuring you pass a drink tap or the likes but can be harder on the trail where these are more scarce if available at all.
Make sure you have a way to carry some water to keep you hydrated and some nutrition to keep your energy levels up. There is nothing worse than running out of these things on trial, it makes for a very unpleasant and very long day! There is a myriad of products on the market that can aid in carrying these necessities. These continue to get lighter and more convenient.
This again is something that will not always be an issue. But if you are traveling to alpine regions or planning to spend time at altitude this should be factored into your planning. Altitude sickness and the spectrum of issues that can arise at altitude can be life-threatening, so if you are someone who is heading to a high point for some running, be it to start the run at or as a high point on your run, do some research into altitude sickness and its effects and make sure you go with someone else.
Make sure you know what the climatic conditions are where you will be running and what they could be in the worst-case scenario. Alpine regions and regions with more volatile weather are particularly important to research and plan for. Do not be averse to canceling runs if needed but always make sure you are prepared in case of poor weather and have plans if things change quickly.
Make sure you know where you are going, how long this will take, and whether the route is well marked. I would suggest earlier on in your trail running endeavors to head out with someone more experienced and always research routes to ensure you know what is out on the trail and how long it may take you. Likewise, whether you need to navigate or not, which is a skill in of itself.
Generally, this information is available on the internet these days, which is fortunate particularly when you decide to try new locations or trails. If you are particularly lucky, you may be able to find maps or even maps that can be uploaded to mobile phones or watches.
Be known about
It is good practice that somebody knows that you are out running, where you are, and what time you plan to be back. This is particularly relevant if you are heading out solo, which is sometimes necessary though I would discourage this earlier on in your trail running, particularly in more remote and more technical areas.
Always make sure that you know what you are getting yourself into and make sure that you are not too proud to call the day off if needed. There is no point in being stubborn and risking your safety to get a run done.
On a similar note, I would suggest always carrying more gear than is needed in case of an emergency. This includes things like first aid supplies but also provisions for changes in weather, be it cold, rain, or anything else. Continuing this theme, always ensure you have more than enough water for your time estimate on the trail and more than enough nutrition should you get lost. If you are fortunate enough to be taking someone else out on the trail to show them around or introduce them to trail running, make sure they know this all of the above and/or you ensure you carry extra supplies should they need it.
Enjoy the trails, be safe, and run well.
Written by: Dr. David Lipman, Podiatrist and Exercise Physiologist