Run Oregon Bookshelf: Where the Road Ends – A Guide to Trail Running

Isn't it just amazing the people you meet in the running community? I remember, with what seems like forever ago, meeting a guy named Scott Wolfe. He sold my husband and I some awesome bicycles. I was in the process of training for an Iron Man Triathlon ... Fast forward a couple years. I had decided triathlons were not my cuppa-Joe, and I was adamant that running was it for me. I just wanted to be a runner. Period. Thankfully, I was able to reach Scott via Facebook with, what I am sure he thought, completely random and off the wall message. The message was basically, "I know you are an incredible runner ... I want to try doing what you do [running an ultra marathon] ... how do I do it?!" I was certain he wouldn't have any clue who I was, or who in the world this crazy person was writing him. To my surprise, Scott responded. His response was informative, friendly and encouraging. He sent me a book called "Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons." This book, written by Bryon Powell, changed my life forever in ways I never thought possible. Thanks to Scott's encouragement and wisdom, and Bryon's book, I set out on a journey to complete my first ultra marathon, a 50K at the McKenzie River Trail Run in September 2015. I have since given Relentless Forward Progress to a fellow runner who wanted to try their hand at the ultra scene. (Thanks, Scott! I passed it down!).

Fast forward to today. About a month ago, I saw there was a new book out on the ultra marathon scene. It was a brand new, hot off the press book called “Where the Road Ends, A Guide to Trail Running.” Low-and-behold, who’s name is on the book? Bryon Powell and Meghan Hicks. Holy smokes! “MUST”, “READ”, “BOOK”, “IMMEDIATELY.”

Let’s just say the last 4 or so weeks, I’ve been studying this book like I will be writing a Master’s thesis on it. It’s amazing. And it’s not for ultra runners specifically – this book is for anyone who wants to experience any distance on the trails.

iRunFar's Meghan Hicks and Bryon Powell Photo Credit:

iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks and Bryon Powell Photo Credit:

“Where the Road Ends, A Guide to Trail Running” is 226 pages packed of brilliant information, stories, and experiences. As I reader, I felt connected to Bryon and Meghan due to the casual, communicative nature of their writing style. Split into twelve chapters, readers will learn about trail safety, stewardship, racing … and even techniques, tools, conditions on the trail and how to manage them, and how to create a training plan. Everything is covered, regardless if you have a desire to trail race, or just run the trails.

Chapter 3, “Finding Footing”, is a must read for anyone hitting the trails. Some highlights that were very helpful included the portion on hard packed dirt trails compared to soft dirt trails, and how to maneuver, effectively and efficiently, along these vastly different surfaces. Even more trail types are discussed, such a snowy trails and rocky ones. Additionally, important tips that may not cross your mind (until you learn them the hard way), are discussed, such as traveling at a safe speed and weaving between obstacles.

“One of the best parts of trail running is its simplicity. You don’t need expensive gear to enjoy it. But if you make one trail running gear purchase, make it a pair of trail running shoes with a good grip on the soles and a little protection from the rocks.”

I can’t stress this enough. Trail running is simple and pure – but invest in a pair of trail running shoes. The best reasoning I have ever seen before is in this book. This holds true for explaining what types of gear you want and need – from socks (very important), to pants, sports bras and accessories. That is a huge question to tackle when doing your first ultra marathon: How much stuff do I bring with me on the race?! You’ll find expert insight into this question in the book.

Bryon Powell 2011 Western States 100 Photo Credit:

Sprinkled throughout the book are one-page highlights called “Places and Races to Inspire”. I tagged nearly all of them to add to my “bucket list”. Between the stunning pictures and excellent descriptions of the places/races, I want to register for all of them.

Chapter 8, “Training for the Trail”, is a fantastic resource to hone in on your trail running skills. I love the intro to this chapter; “Because you’re still reading this book, chances are you’re interested not only in being a trail runner but also in being a better, stronger, more comfortable trail runner.” TRUTH! This sentence really spoke to me, as when I completed the 50K, I knew there was room for improvement in my training. This chapter discusses all aspects of trail running training, including understanding your heart rate, long vs. easy runs, recovery runs (important!), speed training including tempo runs and VO2 max intervals, hill workouts, and trail running drills.

Even if it doesn’t sound exciting, make sure to pay close attention to Chapter 11, which talks about health and injuries. Chafing is something I became to cherish (well, maybe not …) and respect as a part of trail running (or even road racing). The thoroughness of this chapter in describing what obstacles you may be presented with, and how to overcome or endure them successfully, is a real gem that I haven’t seen covered as well in other trail running guides.

Meghan Hicks running Stage 1 of the 2013 Marathon des Sables. Photo: Mark Gillett

The books ends with Chapter 12, which discusses everything you could possibly want or need to know about trail racing.

“If you have come all this way with trail running, you might find yourself interested in participating in a trail race. Racing may help you search for your own top speed, measure yourself against others, or become a part of the wider trail running community. Whatever your proclivity, this chapter explains how to choose and what you can expect from a trail race.”

I can’t stress enough, from my own personal racing experience, how familiarizing yourself with what to expect before hand, and being mentally (and physically) prepared for a vast array of challenges along a course, allows for a sense of calmness prior to a race. In this chapter you will learn, in my opinion, everything you need to know about what to expect and be prepared for during trail racing.

Needless to say, I am a huge fan of “Where the Road Ends, A Guide to Trail Running”. Between this book, and “Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons“, I couldn’t suggest two better resources for novice, intermediate, or even advanced runners. Bryon Powell and Meghan Hicks put together a fantastic guide for all of us to refer to, and I am thrilled it is now part of my running collection.

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