The Ten Commandments (of trail running)

I recently talked about three great trail running books I read. My favorite of the three was Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running by Lisa Jhung. I really enjoy how she shares so much valuable information about trail running in a witty and comical way. One great example of this is her list of 10 Commandments of Trail Running. The list is hers, the explanations and photos are mine.

I. Honor thy trail signs.

Trail signs are there to guide you, keep you from getting lost, and to preserve the area you’re running in. Sometimes they can be a bit sketchy, but you should still follow them.

They may even try to persuade you to take one route over another.

II. Thou shalt remain on designated trails.

When you stray from designated trails, you can damage the natural area around you. Not to mention you put yourself in danger.

III. If thou must stray, stray wisely.

Sometimes nature calls, and none of us can avoid that. If you need to take care of business, or if you have to go off trail for any other reason, do so carefully. Try not to step on fragile flora or fauna. Stick to harder surfaces like rocks or dry grass.


IV. Thou shalt pack out what thou hast packed in.

Don’t litter, obviously. That includes toilet paper – I’ll leave it at that.

V. Thou shalt pack out what thy neighbor hast packed in.

If you do come across something that has been dropped by someone else (hopefully it’s just something like the small top of a gel packet or the corner of an energy bar wrapper), do your due diligence and pick it up.

VI. Thou shalt not feed wildlife.

Feeding wild animals can have a lot of negative consequences. It lessens an animals fear of humans, making them hang out near trails more. It can also lead to animals fighting amongst themselves. Smaller animals congregating near trails may attract larger predators as well. Basically, you’re messing with the balance of nature by interfering. So don’t.

Don’t feed this guy. You’re not doing him any favors.

VII. Thou shalt not rearrange nature.

Trails are usually set up a certain way for a reason (like having logs spaced out down a steep hill to prevent erosion). Leave it to the ones in charge of trail maintenance to make changes, like moving rocks, logs, etc.

VIII. Thou shalt not take nature with you.

You know the saying… take only pictures, leave only footprints. Those wildflowers are pretty to look at, and you may be tempted to take a bouquet home. Instead, you should leave them there for everyone else to enjoy too.

IX. Thou shalt avoid mud.

This may seem counterintuitive to trail running. Aren’t we supposed to get muddy? Yes. But when the trails get extremely muddy, running on them can do a lot of damage. If it’s really rainy or wet out, you should stick to trails that have good drainage or are fairly dry. If conditions are bad enough, you should leave the trail running to another day and hit up a paved bike path or the treadmill instead.


X. If thou encounterest mud, thou shalt run smack through it.

When you are running in a muddy area, you should not try and skirt around the mud puddles. Doing so widens the trail and can cause damage around it. It is actually best to run straight through them. Plus, it’s more fun, right?

What would you add to the ten commandments of trail running?

5 thoughts on “The Ten Commandments (of trail running)”

  1. All these are great! I went once to a brand new trail area and it has several intersecting trails, well i can kept taking turns and trying to find my way out proved to be very challenging and it got pretty dark. SO I take carpenters chalk if I am going to a new place and a light- always!

  2. I’d also say know what fauna is out there. Not just not stepping on it, but if you do have to answer nature’s call, make sure you’re not trudging through a patch of poison ivy or oak.

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