Trail running. There’s nothing quite like it. From the fresh air to to the stunning scenery, there’s a lot to be said for swapping asphalt and tarmac for mud, grass and trees. Whether you've conquered the urban jungle and are looking for a new challenge, or want to combine your love of the outdoors with a newfound interest in running, trail running could be the answer.
A fresh perspective
Let’s be honest. Pounding city streets can get a little repetitive. Trail running, on the other hand, lets you unleash your inner child as you crush the climb and then fly downhill. And it’s easier than you think. Just you, your favorite running kit and a sense of adventure.
But hitting the trail can be a little daunting, and it’s totally normal to be nervous about trying something new. So, it’s important to be prepared. You need to know what you’re taking on and how to get the most out of it. So what’s the secret?
We asked some of our elite trail athletes and ambassadors – who’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt (as well as a fair few medals) – to give us some insights and tips to get you started the right way.
Jérôme Mermillod – Annecy
For more than 15 years, Jérôme has been coaching athletes of all levels, from beginners to experts. You might think that this could take some of the shine off running but the trail still makes him feel like a teenager for a very simple reason...
“Freedom. That’s the coolest thing about trail running for me. The fact that you can leave the city center and just escape – you don’t even need to take the car.”
Marion Delespierre – Lyon
Marion might be a professional runner these days, but she actually only got started as a way of relaxing outside of work with her boyfriend. She quickly found her feet, however, and these days she competes in some of the world’s toughest trail races. Marion’s journey as a trail runner has always been about one thing...
“Just take your time and believe in yourself. Gradually increase the distance and difficulty. But most of all, have fun. That’s the best motivation. Find what works best for you.”
Antoine Charvolin – Grenoble
In order to complete epic races like the Marathon du Mont Blanc and Sierre Zinal, On athlete Antoine trains up to 14 times a week. This is probably going to be too much for most people. And even for an elite runner like him, progression has always been key.
“Don’t push yourself too quickly, evolve at your own pace and take the time to do things right. Once you have a little experience, make the most of the beauty of the landscapes that surround you. Just enjoy it as much as you can!”
Thibaud Le Coguic – Annecy
Completing the 85 km La Maxi Race Annecy may not be everyone’s idea of peaceful, but that’s exactly what keeps Thibaud coming back for more...
“I love to be in the mountains – experiencing nature, seeing animals and being alone, just me and my thoughts.”
Marine Chalaye – Lyon
On ambassador Marine takes on distances from 10 km all the way up to 110 km. Whether it’s after a training session, standing on the finish line of Le Trail de Bourbon or racing around more than 100 km of Reunion Island, Marine’s love for trail running is always the same...
“I love the feeling of freedom and the sense of discovery. But also feeling the power of my body, being capable of running for hours. It all just makes me feel so grateful.”
MRC – Paris
A running club based in the bohemian Marais district of Paris, MRC are all about sharing positive energy and experiences with one another. They work and live in the city, so they try to get away from it all and connect with nature wherever they can...
“We've been living in Paris for six years, but we love nature. We know and run in all the Parisian parks on a regular basis (which we think still counts as trail running) but we often go beyond city walls to expand our playground too.”
All mapped out
Whether you’re after some new route ideas or are new to trail running and just want a little help getting started, our elite athletes have picked some of their favorite runs. Take a look and get inspired for your next adventure.
The Rock of Chère – Jérôme Mermillod
When you’re surrounded by the scenery of south-eastern France, you can’t really go wrong when it comes to picking a route, but then there are trails like this…
“This run is in a nature reserve suspended above Lake Annecy. The run is simply spectacular. There’s incredible vegetation due to the presence of both mountain and Mediterranean micro climates, and it runs alongside the golf course and overlooks the limestone cliffs. ”
Presa Moucherotte – Antoine Charvolin
Ideally situated close to the city of Grenoble and on the doorstep of the Vercors Regional Natural Park, this trail is one that simply can’t be missed.
“The goal is the emblematic summit overlooking the city below. You'll need a lot of energy to take it on though. Starting from Grenoble there’s 1700 m of climbing. However, it is possible to shorten the trail by leaving from Saint Nizier du Moucherotte instead – a difference of more than 1000 m in altitude.“
The Veyrier – Thibaud Le Coguic
An iconic Annecy route. Leave the town behind and head off on a real adventure. One that should be on the list of beginners and experienced athletes alike.
“This route is very special – thanks to the beautiful view of the lake from the summit and the fabulous trail itself. It’s not too long but there is a bit of a climb, so make sure you go at your own pace.“
Mont Thou's Climb – Marion Delespierre
A real classic, with views that’ll make the slightly difficult climb a distant memory. And then there’s the descent to enjoy.
“This route encapsulates everything I love about trail running. It’s a little on the long side if you’re just getting started but you probably won’t be running the entire time – this way you can properly take in the scenery. Not only is it right behind my house, in the Monts d'Or, but it has what I would describe as the best-ever view of Lyon from the top.”
Les Dents – Marine Chalaye
A run through the Pilat Massif is a must for any trail enthusiast. Though the panoramas may not be the only breathtaking thing about this particular route.
“I live in the National Park, it’s like my own personal playground. The highest peak is around 1300 m, which means starting from the Rhône I can easily accumulate more than 1000 m of climbing. Of course, reaching the top always feels great.”
Circuit des 25 Bosses – MRC
Just south of Paris is the town of Fontainebleau and its eponymous forest. With miles of tracks to be discovered, it definitely deserves its reputation as a trail running destination.
“This is a pretty hike amid rocks, pines and sand – it’s excellent training for mountain hikes and, above all, a truly exotic location! Running is not the main activity though and you’ll meet a lot of people with crash pads on their backs as it's also a famous spot for climbing. We suggest you try and go at sunrise, as it’s a great time to see wildlife.”
So, there you have it. Six unmissable routes. No more excuses. No more fear. It’s time to ditch your expectations, get out and enjoy the run. Happy trails. If you’ve been inspired to hit the trails, why not check out our transformative guide to taking your run off road now.