Why Winter Trail Running Beats Summer Running

Blue Hen Falls right off of the Buckeye Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park looks so much prettier in the winter!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! You might be wondering what I’m talking about. The holidays are over, you might be thinking. Oh I know. It’s January, baby. The snow is heavy (at least around here), the air is frigid and we all must don headlamps during many of our runs.

Yes, to me January is one of the best times of the year … for running trails!

Now before you have me committed, let me explain.

Watching my step! Hills are much more fun if you walk up them!

I’ve spent a lot of time on the roads lately, mainly because I was busy and needed to cram in as many miles as I could when I could get out the door. Thanks to a much-needed weekend off, I was able to do some back-to-back long runs on my favorite trails. ย And those trails didn’t disappoint! The snow from almost two weeks ago has yet to melt and the trails looked like a Christmas card. Both days were cold and even though I sometimes miss running in shorts with the sub blazin’ through the trees, I realized just how amazing winter trail running is.

If you’ve never done it, now’s the time! Not only because the trails are beautiful when covered in snow, either. There are so many reasons to run trails in the winter.

In the winter, trail running is more about time out there and enjoying the miles than running hard. No one thinks twice about running slower or walking up a hill. The same could be said about trail running in general, but winter is definitely the time to take it slow. On Sunday, my friends and I ran into a group of faster runners and one of them looked at our time and mileage on my Garmin and noted we were running a better pace than they had been. But pace and mileage doesn’t matter as much during the month of January. It’s a time to build a base for spring training and spend the time on your feet and enjoy the trail.

It’s quiet and a chance to escape from the rest of the world. In last week’s post, Iย talked about my boyfriend’s deployment and how that affected my running. I started running trails right when he left and stuck with it because it was a way to escape from the hustle and crowds of my normal life and get out in nature and see things that not everyone gets to see. In January, the trails are much less used and the wintry weather provides a perfect environment to forget your everyday troubles.

It’s a challenge. I’d be lying if I said it were easy. Running isn’t ever easy, but winter trail running poses new challenges that you don’t get on the roads or in the spring and summer. There’s a park very close to where I live that has a great bridle and hiking trail system. I know the trails there well and ran with a friend on New Year’s Eve. We usually can do a 6-mile loop almost as fast as on the roads, but with the snow and ice, we were about three minutes per mile slower. The level of difficulty of trail running is harder than in the middle of summer when the trails are dry, but it’s worth it. It’s the harder miles that you different muscle groups that make you stronger. I know that the miles I’m struggling through now will make me a better runner in the spring.

Do you seek out or avoid the trails in the winter?

Trail and 100 mile ultra runner who still loves a good road marathon every now and then. Lifetime Northeast Ohio resident that dreams of the mountains out west, but loves CLE too much. Sometimes a vegan, sometimes does yoga, always loves a good craft beer and post race donuts.

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  1. I agree the trails are beautiful in the winter! I tend to avoid them though because I am worried about hurting myself and it takes so much longer to get the miles in. The only time I can get to the trails is on the weekends and usually I have longer speedier runs on tap and the snowy trails aren’t really conducive to that. My injury fears are silly though, since when I have run on snowy trails I worked different muscles, but was fine. Ideally, I’d mix up roads, treadmill, trails and indoor track – if only I had the time to do it ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I love running trails in the winter, although I prefer ones that are free of snow because I get lost easily and find it difficult to stay on the trail when it’s covered in snow

  3. I was just thinking the other day how peaceful trails must be in the winter (given how peaceful even the roads are in the predawn). I don’t get much opportunity to run trails, but may have to make the time to do so at least once this winter. Though I might try to avoid the creeks at South Chagrin Reservation.

  4. You must visit Colorado in the winter! The scenery is amazing, and as much as I don’t like cold weather, it’s different here. The trails are great!

  5. I’m SO supportive of everyone’s trail running enjoyment, but it’s SO not for me (not even in the summer)! You know I like my treadmill and reading about y’all’s trail running adventures. I’m living vicariously through you!