Stumbles and Strides: Why Mistakes Make You a Better Trail Runner

We all know the feeling. You’re cruising down a beautiful trail, feeling strong and connected to nature. Then, BAM! You misstep, and you find yourself falling with style, or you take a wrong turn, adding a frustrating detour to your run. Mistakes on the trail can be disheartening, but here’s the secret: they’re also essential for growth as a runner.

The day before this run, I slipped on some rocks landing on my elbow. It could have ended quite differently.

Here’s how embracing those stumbles (both literal and metaphorical) can turn you into a more confident and capable trail runner:

Learning the Terrain

The beauty of trail running is its ever-changing nature. Unlike a predictable track, trails throw unexpected obstacles your way. A misplaced foot teaches you about loose rocks, a missed turn reveals a hidden path – these mistakes become lessons in reading the terrain, making you a more adaptable runner.

Fueling for Success

Bonking (hitting the wall due to lack of energy) is a common mistake, especially for beginners. But each bonk is a valuable data point. You learn about your body’s needs, and the importance of proper fueling, pre-, during and post-workout.

Fuel earlier than you think. If you have the option to put reminders on your watch, then use this option.

For more fueling tips check out my Runners Toolbox on fuelling.

You know when you have fuelled correctly when you don’t feel like arse hours after your run.

Perfecting Your Gear

Is that brand-new backpack rubbing you raw? Those minimalist shoes offering zero support on rocky descents? Mistakes in gear choice become opportunities to refine your kit. You learn what works for your body and running style, ensuring future adventures are comfortable and efficient.

Testing your gear in all conditions is vital, so you are ready for anything on race day.

Building Mental Resilience

Photo by Ann H

Trail running is as much mental as it is physical. Pushing through a tough climb, navigating technical terrain, or dealing with unexpected setbacks builds mental fortitude. Overcoming mistakes on the trail translates into a stronger, more resilient mindset that benefits all aspects of your life.

Knowing Your Limits

Sometimes, the biggest mistake is not listening to your body. Pushing through an injury or ignoring signs of exhaustion can lead to bigger problems. Learning from these mistakes teaches you to respect your limits, prioritize recovery, and ultimately run smarter, not harder.

Remember, even the most seasoned trail runners make mistakes. The key is to view them as stepping stones, not roadblocks. Embrace the stumbles, learn from them, and you’ll become a more confident, capable, and adaptable runner, ready to tackle any trail that comes your way!

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