Why this new sport that combines hiking and running can be therapeutic, too

This new therapeutic sport combines hiking and running
If you’re so used to fun runs, why not try trail running? Get fit while appreciating nature more! (Photo by Bricx Martillo Dumas. Special thanks to Merrell Philippines)

The millennial bug has bit us in more ways than one that as some of us read this on a Tuesday, our insatiable wanderlust might have just led us to booking a trip elsewhere with our friends this Saturday. Off to a Southeast Asian country, to a virgin island, to the mountain ranges of Rizal, who knows? We always say traveling is synonymous to going on “hard reset”—and whether it’s taking a breather from school or our job, following where our feet is never a bad idea.

It gets better when you realize that there’s a new hobby that not only gets you places but also keeps you in shape. Trail running is what it is, a sport differing from track running that’s set obviously on roads and highways. Instead, this has mountain trails and hills for a location—imagine going hiking on a site with almost the same distances they have in fun runs, but more difficult as the route is rocky and prone to erosion.

But the advantages are a lot, says PH Mountains app creator and UP Mountaineers public relations officer Miko Santos.

“Trail running is more challenging physically and mentally. You need more leg power to tackle all those uphill (climbs) and river crossings. You need to be more attentive and mentally prepared of the things you may encounter in the trail, whether that be the uneven terrain, the scorching heat of the sun, the low temperatures in high altitudes and rain, the uncertainties when traversing a dense rainforest, or the lack of sleep and total exhaustion in ultra trail races.”

As it’s a more difficult variation of track running with lots of hazards from outside forces in the mix, Santos says trail running proves as the perfect workout session, contributing to not just your cardio but also your strength and conditioning.

And then there’s the part that it caters to the millennial itch.

Santos says, “For people who spend most of their time in the middle of a bustling city, running in the woods would provide a sense of meditative retreat from one's everyday routine.”

Distances in trail running can go up to that of ultramarathons, beyond 42km. As it’s a new hobby, only a few organizations have since risen in support of the sport. The International Trail Running Association, governing the sport worldwide, only came to be in 2013. The league puts out events happening across the world on their site. The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is said to be the Tour de France of trail running, as it’s the biggest world event in the sport.

In the Philippines, the biggest trail running event is a series of runs bannered as “King of the Mountain.” It comprises five runs held across the Cordillera ranges up north, annually held during the first half of the year.

As for Santos, he has observed the recent growth numbers of trail running enthusiasts via his own app. PH Mountains is the first and only mobile app locally that supplies information about the country’s mountaineering sites and then records your hikes when you tackle one or more. Info includes photos, distances, and current weather situations—necessary for nature wanderers.

“By the end of 2014, after quitting my job, I created the app. When I coded it, I didn't expect it would be such a big hit. I guess I realized what my fellow mountaineers needed at the time and found a solution to the lack of mountain information through an app. I also currently manage its social media accounts that have thousands of nature-loving followers,” he shares.

Santos predicts it will only take a matter of time before trail running gets super trendy. And so he is nothing but welcoming to those only finding out about the hobby just now, may it be a beginner or an athlete looking for more challenge.

“If you are already running on the road, then a switch to trail running will be a breath of fresh air—literally! If you're a mountaineer, dropping the heavy backpack and going faster, will be a good challenge to test your stamina. If you're a couch potato, this is the most scenic and refreshing way to start being active!”

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