Trail Running

What to Bring/Wear

  • Basically your normal running clothes, but err on the warm side as at slower speeds you don't generate as much body heat.
  • Shoes: ideally trail shoes, which look like road shoes but have more grip. Some have water-resistant uppers as well. In summer you can get away with road shoes but please take care on slippery mud. Don't wear cross country spikes as the routes are on mixed surfaces and often include some hard tracks and road.

Serpie trail runners at Ivinghoe BeaconUnless it's a marshaled race you'll also want to carry:

  • Water: it is a good idea to carry a little water with you as checkpoints are sometimes quite widely spaced.
  • Rain jacket: if the forecast suggests.
  • Spare warm layer: especially in winter – bearing in mind that if you have to slow down, perhaps due to getting lost, injury or fatigue, you may be a long way from civilisation.
  • Clear plastic bag (or better, a map case) to keep your map or route description dry.
  • Mobile and cash for an emergency taxi, just in case you should get hopelessly lost...
  • A small rucksack to carry the above items (in summer you may only need a bottle belt).

Some events require you to carry additional items for safety so do check their web pages.

Self-supported Trail Runs

The Serpie trail group does self-supported social runs from time to time. These aim to be novice friendly, so unless a particular guide pace is given, slower runners are welcome: people will wait for you! All we ask is that you can run for the nominated distance without recourse to walking. These runs are similar to the organised events, and often use the same routes, the differences being:

  • You have to carry all your water and food with you.
  • There's nowhere to leave bags at the start, so wear your running kit on the train and carry only what you will take with you on the run.

Please note that everyone participating in these runs does so at their own risk and is expected to be self-sufficient.

Things You Should Know

Most trail events are not marshaled. Instead, you navigate from a route description, which gives detailed instructions on how to find your way arounTrail running groupd the course. It is recommended to carry the relevant Ordnance Survey map and compass as a backup, though most of the time the route description is all you need. If the navigation bit seems a little daunting, look out for those events listed as Serpie social runs, where someone else will do the navigating for you.

Trail running requires you to watch out for yourself a bit more than in road racing. The course may well include hazards such as uneven or slippery surfaces, tree roots, steep drops, etc. and it's up to you to look out for them – don't expect to see warning notices at every turn! Likewise road sections are generally open to traffic and un-marshaled so take care here.

On the LDWA events, HQ is usually in a village hall with limited changing facilities, so it's best to come changed ready to run, and you may have to wait until you get home for that shower afterwards.

On most events you can just turn up and enter on the day, but please enter in advance if you can. You don't wear a race number but instead carry a check card, which you need to pick up at registration and get clipped at each checkpoint.

Trail Races

There are races and events in all the off-road categories. Whilst the popularity of events can change from year to year, here are a few races and organisations which have proved popular with Serpies in recent years. Do request that races are added to the Serpentine planner by emailing the details to events@serpentine.org.uk and make sure that you add yourself to an event to increase the likelihood of being with other Serpies.

Winter TannersA good place to start trail running would be in Richmond or Bushy Park (Nice Events organise a series of events from 10k to half marathons). Some longer races that are popular with club members, and easy to get to from London, are the Orion 15 in March, North Downs Run in June and Fairlands Valley Challenge (Stevenage) in July and the Stour Valley Trail in August.

Many trail events, however, are non-competitive and the object is simply to complete a given route in your own time. The atmosphere, therefore, tends to be laid back and sociable, and Serpies often run them together in a group. The main organiser of non-competitive trail events is the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) – but despite the “Walkers” in the title, about half the entrants typically are runners. These are low key events, cheap to enter, and often have remarkably good refreshments!

The longer trail events may not be marshaled. Instead, you navigate from a route description, which gives detailed instructions on how to find your way around the course. It is recommended to carry the relevant Ordnance Survey map and compass as a backup, though most of the time the route description is all you need. If the navigation bit seems a little daunting, look out for those events listed as Serpie social runs, where someone else will do the navigating for you.

Trail races are also a great excuse to get out of London for the weekend. In recent years the Steeplechase Challenge, the Lakeland Trails and the Endurance Life Series have all proved popular with club members.

Finding Out More

  1. Check the weekend and social trail runs page for upcoming social runs.
  2. Make sure you receive the trail running emails by adding yourself to the trail running mailing list.
  3. Come along to a trail run and chat to your fellow Serpentine trail runners.

If you do require further information contact trail@serpentine.org.uk