For runners in Orange County, sticking to sidewalks can become boring. Some studies also show that running on concrete puts more stress on your joints than running on softer surfaces. Luckily, the extensive trails in the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks offer a variety of alternatives.
Trail running is a sport that combines a fast pace with natural environs for a mind-and-body workout. A recent article in Runner's World magazine suggests that trail runners benefit from the lower impact of running on dirt or other trail surfaces. The article also cautions trail runners to start slow when they are just beginning the sport. Highly technical trails can present uneven surfaces that newer trail runners might not be ready for. Best to start on wider, flatter trails to build up the small stabilizing muscles needed for balance.
Beginners who want to try trail running at their own pace should choose a wide trail with very little elevation gain. There are several regional and wilderness parks in the OC Parks system that have trails perfect for the novice trail runner. Good examples include Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park and Irvine Regional Park. The beachside wilderness trails at Crystal Cove State Park are also a good choice.
If you're ready to try more advanced trail running, register for the docent-led trail run September 21 in Limestone Canyon. The activity will include many climbs and terrain types during a medium-paced run. Runners can also register for a Wilderness Access Day in Bommer Canyon, Black Star Canyon or Limestone Canyon. Volunteers and staff are present at Wilderness Access Days to help visitors select the best trails for a variety of skill levels.
If you really ramp up, maybe you can compete in the upcoming Into the Wild Trail Running Championships November 9. To find out more about Wilderness Access Days or upcoming docent-led activities visit www.LetsGoOutside.org.