Saturday morning, 8 am. The leaves are glowing green in the morning light, and a small group of runners follows the trail winding through the trees. It is mostly quiet, just the steady rhythm of footsteps, a few conversations shared in between breaths.
The last Saturday of the month, downtown Eugene’s running shop, Run Hub Northwest, organizes a group trail run. Recently they met at the Martin Street trailhead in south Eugene and ran up to the Ridgeline Trail.
Trail running might sound a little intimidating. Do you need special shoes? Is that one of those extreme sports where you run 100 kilometers?
According to Dustin Pearce, owner of Run Hub, trail running simply involves going for a run on a trail. “You need a good pair of running shoes and a trail,” Pearce says. “There you go.” He adds, “People get more freaked out than they should.”
Pearce says that interest in trail running has increased in recent years — Run Hub’s trail runs usually have between 20 and 40 people, depending on the weather. Trail running is sometimes associated with ultra marathons because these extra-long-distance races often take place on trails, but running on a trail doesn’t necessarily involve extreme feats of endurance. On Rub Hub’s trail runs, for example, they usually split into two groups — one goes 45 minutes to an hour, while the other does 90 minutes or so.
Besides the scenery, trail running can be more forgiving than running on a road or track. Runner’s knee, shin splints, strains and sprains — most runners can describe in detail what these injuries feel like. But a trail is more uneven than a road, making each movement less repetitive.
Switching to trails will not prevent stress injuries, of course, but Pearce says it’s “a little healthier” in comparison. “It’s very dynamic, each footstep is a little different,” he notes about trail running.
Pearce acknowledges that Pre’s Trail in Alton Baker Park might not exactly count as trail running, which ideally involves dirt and rocks and plenty of ups and downs. But the essential thing, he says, is getting away from roads and tracks and seeing new and beautiful places.
In the past year, Run Hub’s trail running group has gone to the McKenzie River Trail, Elijah Bristow State Park, Bryce Creek Trail and more. Pearce says in the coming months the group may begin exploring the Coast Range.
The recent Saturday run to the Ridgeline Trail was Lisa Kuenzi’s first trail run. She says she started running again when she was 49 and has been doing it for about a year, after a hiatus of 25 years. “I started just power walking,” Kuenzi says, and she kept going from there.
Annie White was another first-time trail runner that day. She says she came out for Run Hub’s group run to meet new people. “For me I feel safer branching out into these different trails in a group,” she says.
Run Hub has been open for about a year. Pearce says he left a career as a science teacher to open the business, but he still coaches high school runners in Creswell.
For those interested, Run Hub will be organizing a special run May 20, tentatively entitled Prefontaine Classic Pre-Funk and Run, and costumes are encouraged. See more at runhubnw.com.