Winter is approaching and we can’t deny that running outside might become slightly more challenging. However, the cold season also gives us the opportunity to explore new and exciting alternatives. At this time of the year, cross-country and trail running are a great way to build strength and ENDURANCE for the upcoming season! These two styles of running have become more and more popular in the last years. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of confusion about them. Both terms are often used as synonyms, as many people do not really know the difference between cross-country and trail running. Therefore we decided to clear up all your doubts by interviewing the best Danish trail and cross-country expert that you can find out there: Søren Rasmussen. Like most runners, Søren started his career with road and track races. Here Søren achieved extremely good times on both the marathon distance (2 hours, 18 minutes and 32 seconds) and on the 10.000m (29 minutes and 48 seconds). After becoming Danish champion on the marathon distance in 1997, Søren started to focus his attention on trail running. Today, he is a full-time running coach for the Danish Trail and Mountain National team, and a total geek when it comes to trail and cross-country running. Therefore we asked him to dig deeper into the subject by answering a few questions!
What distinguishes cross-country from trail running?

“Basically, both cross-country running and trail running are about running in terrain, out in nature, away from the streets. But where they differ, is that cross-country is typically more related to running fast on a big golf-course, in parks or on big lawns. Cross country is more audience-friendly, whereas trail running is rougher and absolutely wild!”

Indeed, trail running usually takes place on small, rocky and steep paths and therefore appeals to the more “adventurous” type. Apart from terrain, trail running and cross-country also differ in terms of distance. Cross-country running is typically on a shorter distance of up to 10 km. Here participants often run multiple rounds on the same course. Trail running is usually longer and can be up to 170 km. Here runners have to bring their own food and water supplies.
Why have cross-country and trail running become so popular among runners?

 "Trail running has especially become popular because it has nothing to do with time, personal records or pace. When you are out in the woods, you are not as focused on the performance, but rather on the experience. Both cross-country and trail running has become popular due to the fact that it reduces the risk of getting injured. When you run on a softer surface like for example on grass, the woods etc., you train your joints, ligaments, and tissues as well as your tendons and muscles. Your strength is likely to increase as well.”

Besides being beneficial for the body in terms of endurance, running in the woods is also appreciated for its positive effects on mental well-being. Exploring new sceneries. Being surrounded by nature will make you forget the time and escape the stress of the “urban jungle”!
Any advice for the newbies approaching these two styles of running?

“Small steps are the securest way to success! Let it take the time it takes.”

While the softer soil exposes to fewer injuries, the presence of roots or rocks might result in more abrasions linked to falling or tripping. It goes without saying that cross-country and trail running newbies should be particularly careful! Runners who are planning to move from road-races to cross-country should do this gradually. Especially at initial stages, trail and cross-country running should be used as a supplement to the normal road training.

"This means that if you are running 50km per week, you should not immediately move all these kilometers into the woods when you start trail and cross-country running.”

If you are in doubt of how to approach cross-country and trail running, Søren recommends getting in touch with your local running club. Browsing trail and cross-country events on Facebook is also a good idea! What are you waiting for? Lace up your shoes and awake your inner explorer! And do not forget to swing by our webshop, in case you need some good running socks!