Running in Nature – Winter Hazards

Previously, I posted some of the fun and exciting things you can encounter while running in the winter.  However, it is not always a barrel of laughs.  The onset of winter means most deciduous trees will have dropped their leaves – usually all over the trail upon which you are trying to run.  In his book The Runner’s Rule Book, Mark Remy says when running in winter: “If it’s shiny, it’s slippery” (146).  I would like to amend that to: “if it’s under you, it’s slippery.”  Please take heed of some common trail hazards, of which you should be even more cautious in the winter months when the addition of ice, snow, and abundant leaves make things even more challenging.

Left: leaf-covered erosion bar Right: an entire hill of them

Erosion control measures:  Have you ever been on a run or hike through the woods and thought, “oh look, steps!”  The “steps” are usually wooden bars put into a man-made trail to try and counteract the natural erosion (usually runoff) incurred by the unnatural occurrence of a trail popping up in the middle of what was once undisturbed ground.  The hazard level presented by erosion control bars varies dependent upon the weather, season, hill steepness, and the diligence of the Eagle Scout who installed them.  Erosion bars become slippery at even the suggestion of rain, snow, or ice; proceed with caution when approaching them in winter.  Or ever.  Many thanks to my co-worker Beth for helping demonstrate the lurking danger of half-hidden erosion control measures!

Roots: Tree roots can hide in plain sight. Below are some roots on the (perfectly cleared) path around the lake in the park where I work.  I named the large, boot-sized one Charlie.  Exposed tree roots are commonly found on packed dirt trails where the constant use has eroded away the dirt originally covering them.  Their city-dwelling cousins, the under-the-asphalt-root-deathtrap can be found on paved trails and sidewalks.  Have a sudden, inexplicable hump in the path?  Probably a tree root.

Who needs to run through tries for an agility drill when you have roots?

Who needs to run through tires for an agility drill when you have roots?

The bottom line:  Be vigilant while running in the out of doors and you can have a lovely and refreshing experience.  Be prudent about slowing down on icy patches and steep inclines or declines wherein erosion bars may lurk.  If the leaves are so deep you cannot directly feel the ground, you probably shouldn’t be running in that spot.  If there are trees, the roots have to be somewhere nearby.  If there’s a cut trail, there will be erosion which can lead to erosion prevention measures, exposed roots, and unstable and slippery terrain.  Please be careful, and avoid the people-eating roots!

I have a knee scar courtesy of Charlie


2 Responses

  1. Those wooden bridges near Lake Artemesia can be treacherous with just a thin coating of ice.

  2. Clare – ice? Heck all they need to be is damp and I am gingerly walking across, holding on for dear life! Moldy wood bridges are my enemy. Well, in addition to all the things Andrea mentioned, of course! (Says the klutz.)

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