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Happy trails with beer and running

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This week the New York Times published an article questioning the long-held belief by many runners that trails are easier on the joints and body than asphalt.

Running Trails: Highway to the Danger Zone?

Running Trails: Highway to the Danger Zone?

The gist of the article is that there is no scientific evidence that running on dirt and gravel trails prevents injury any better than harder surfaces like roads and sidewalks. The headline: “For runners, soft ground can be hard on the body.”

“It is not an easy question to answer,” one medical researcher said, while another doctor added that it would be smart to “get used to” running on roads.

Plus, you could sprain your ankle! Or shoot your eye out! Trail running is dangerous!

A minor dust-up among running geeks ensued.

Was this another one of those health myths busted? Was the Times needlessly stirring up controversy? Or is this yet another instance of conflicting conventional wisdom and shifting scientific opinion that you don’t know who or what to believe?

To this I say, REALLY New York Times? You’re picking on trail running?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the experts who would tell you to be wary of trails because you could get injured are the same people who would tell you not to have a beer after a run. Trails, like craft beer, provide the variety and reward that is necessary to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

I’m willing to defy the experts if it means not running on a treadmill and drinking lite beer all the time. I’m a rebel, I know.

All I know is I have a blast when I run on trails, regardless of its ability to prevent injury or not. Do you have to be careful running among dirt, tree roots, rocks, holes and constantly changing elevation? Without a doubt.

But for what it’s worth, I always feel stronger, fresher and less beat-up than when I run on hard, flat surfaces that stress the same muscles, joints and ligaments over and over.

Most importantly, trail running provides the most adventure per mile, in my opinion.

That’s a risk I’m willing to take.

UPDATE: Jim’s graph sums this up much better in far fewer words.

 

Author
Tim Cigelske is DRAFT's Beer Runner. (Beer Run•ner [noun]: Someone equally devoted to fine beer appreciation and an active, healthy lifestyle. Ex. "John downed four microbrews at the triathlon finish line. He's a total beer runner.”) Follow Tim on Twitter @TheBeerRunner, and email him at beerrunner [at] draftmag.com.

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5 Comments

  • Kalina says:

    AMEN to this!! Trail running = happy, uninjured running. It was an interesting article [in the NY Times] I suppose, but come on people. Get out and live! I’m all for trail running and having a beer after :)

  • amy says:

    amen! love the trails! so much less pressure IMO

  • www.jacquelinewindh.com says:

    I am actually a scientist… but this is a case where the scientists have omitted so many variables that their conclusion is meaningless. (Or at least in how their work was presented in this article. I did not see the primary studies).

    I am also a runner. Those of us who run know that on pavement your footstrike is pretty much the same every time. Which is hard on the joints, tendons, tissues.

    One of the things about trails, aside from the soft surface, is that they are irregular. Every footstrike is different. So if you can get it together enough to avoid spraining your ankle (the implications of which are still not as bad as being hit by a car), you avoid a lot of impact-related and overuse injuries. I think any runner who runs both roads and trails knows this.

    That article was ridiculous. The conclusions drawn were far out of proportion to the evidence presented. Running trails is not the same as running some hypothetical flat and even soft surface. Not at all.

  • BrewHiker says:

    If I had a Camelbak it would be full of beer – a handcrafted banana bread weizenbock, perhaps…

  • Fawn (milanorunner) says:

    Hell to the yeah! This Shiner is for you man!

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