Trail Running

Advice for Multi-Use Trail Users

I didn’t like the way they were saying it, but I agreed with them. As more people are getting outside due to the COVID-19 pandemic – which in itself is a controversial issue – I’m reminded of a time last year when I overheard a few mountain bikers recapping their ride while I was getting warmed up for a run. The afterglow of a good run or ride is part of why I love coming out here, but they were commenting with a loud, and shall we say, colourful tone on a runner who didn’t give way because he was wearing headphones. Attitude aside they were absolutely right: on a multi-use trail system we all need to unplug and put the headphones away. It is a matter of both safety and community.

The Harold Town Conservation Area is an unbelievable local trail system, and I give full credit to the Peterborough Trailbuilders Association and Peterborough Cycling Club who have put forth a yeoman’s (yeoperson!) effort on improvements over the years I have been running there. However, I fear is a 1970’s surf attitude of “locals rule” developing if we don’t look out for one another. It is a public space – one where bikers, runners, dog walkers, hikers, horseback riders and geocachers – have incredible access to just minutes out of town. For runners making use of this great space I recommend:

Look Up: Harold Town has incredible switchbacks to work on both our climbing and downhills. Guess what? As a former m ountain biker I loved them too, but only going one way and it sure wasn’t up. When you’re about to tackle an uphill switchback look up and listen. If you can see or hear riders proceed with caution, because you can jump off the trail much more safely than they can.

Unplug And Be Present: The hills are aliiiiive, with the sound of NOT THE CITY! Presumably we all go out to the trails for the same reason, which is because we love nature and want to get off the roads. Listen to what nature has to offer and enjoy it. Practice listening to your breathing and footfalls. That awareness of your own body and its response to your efforts will make you a more present runner.

Break Out The Human Karaoke Machine: There’s nothing saying you can’t sing, hum or just bust out lyrics and rhymes in your head as you run. I listen to tunes in the car heading out and as I pull in, and whatever I’ve got going is coming with me as a mental jukebox. Last Saturday I crushed ‘Licensed to Ill’ twice and I’m a better person for it.

Talk: When you see a rider or other user have a chat. Tell them where you’re going and ask them the same. If you’re both on the fly let them know if there are other runners behind you. I have yet to talk to someone in a bad mood while on the trails because we love whatever it is we’re doing. It builds awareness and community. Trail users of all types can learn a lot from each other, and just because they have tires and you have shoes doesn’t mean you can’t share a beer in the parking lot.

We have a fantastic resource in the Harold Town trails. Let’s make sure that we work together and share it in a fair manner. The last thing we want to see is like minded people at each other’s throats, and certainly not causing each other accidental harm when it could have been avoided by just being courteous of one another.

To support this amazing trail system consider contacting either the Peterborough Trail Builders Association or Peterborough Cycling Club to purchase a membership or make a donation. Every bit helps!

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