Trails offer nice change of scenery, new challenge
By Casey McGuire-Turcotte
Special to The Advertiser
Running in a crowded city can get old quickly. The crowded sidewalks, roads filled with buses, rental cars and tourist trolleys along with endless stoplights are enough to send those New Years' resolutions packing in a hurry.
Deborah Booker The Honolulu Advertiser
Filiesha Lerand is at the front of a pack of runners heading up a trail at Makiki State Park. "They're probably one of the best-kept secrets in town," says Aaron Lowe, a trail runner.
Deborah Booker The Honolulu Advertiser
A dose of trail running might be just what you need to revive your love of the outdoors. A blissful run surrounded by fresh air and wide-open spaces is a lot closer than you may think.
Trail running is a mix of traditional running with a hiking twist. Rather than worrying about distance and time, running trails is about enjoying the journey and the scenery around you.
Trails OK for running
Most of Hawai'i's hundreds of hiking trails are suitable for running, each with different views and degrees of difficulty.
Greg Cuadra, a board member of the Hawai'i Ultra Running Team (HURT) in Honolulu and an avid trail runner, started running on trails for a change of pace eight years ago. Today, his weekly runs on the numerous trails just above Makiki are one of the highlights of his training.
"You're not dodging cars, no concrete sidewalks, no traffic trail running is just a great way to run."
While trail running may be more scenic than road running, it is also much more strenuous, and is considered an extreme sport (like wind-surfing or rock climbing) because of its intensity.
Even when traveling short distances, the constant changes in terrain, elevation, and weather conditions make for a much different workout than running on the roads or sidewalks around town.
"The first time people get off the road and on the trail, even the most well-trained athletes are surprised at how difficult it is," Cuadra said. "You need overall strength to run trails, because you use your whole body to balance on the uneven surfaces. You also lift your legs a lot more."
Training and equipment
Cuadra, like most trail runners, cross-trains and lifts weights to help with overall body strength. He also wears specialized trail-running shoes, which he says are a must for someone who plans to do a lot of trail running in Hawai'i.
"The thicker tread on the bottom of the shoe helps prevent slipping in muddy conditions, and the stiff sole offers more protection from sharp rocks and roots than a basic running shoe does," he said.
Trail shoes also offer stability to keep you from twisting ankles on the trail's uneven terrain.
Preparing for a trail run is different from a regular road run. The same safety precautions recommended for hikers apply for trail runners, including always telling someone where you are going, never venturing out alone and staying on the marked path.
Aaron Lowe, a Trails and Access specialist with the State of Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife, is the head of Na Ala Hele (Trails to go on). His department is responsible for the upkeep and care of most of O'ahu's state-owned public trails. Safety for all trail users is the top concern of his department.
"We want people to enjoy nature, but we want them to be smart about it," Lowe said. "Always educate yourself on what you're getting into before you leave home."
Free trail safety brochures are available from the Na Ala Hele office or from the Hawai'i Nature Center, both on Makiki Heights Drive.
Close to town
Running on trails in Honolulu doesn't mean you have to drive miles out of town. One of the most popular trail systems on the island is the 18-mile Makiki/Tantalas/Manoa system.
Made of up several connecting trails of varying distances, the system averages between about 20 to 40 walkers, hikers and runners each day, peaking at six to nine people in the mornings.
Considering the number of runners on our streets every day, Lowe is surprised more people aren't on trails.
"People don't realize that a few minutes from the busy streets they're running on are miles and miles of trails to explore," Lowe said. "They're probably one of the best-kept secrets in town."
SITES TO SEE
If you're interested in learning more about the trails near you, check out the Na Ala Hele Web site: www.hawaiitrails.org. It is one of the most comprehensive sites on trail systems in the state, and lists the name, location, difficulty level and distance of hundreds of trails on each island.
To learn more about trail running clubs in Honolulu, check out The Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club at http://aditl.com/htmc or call John or J.P. Salmonson with the Hawai'i Ultra Running Team at 235-0577.
SAFETY AND ETIQUETTE
Run with a friend (don't go out alone)
Bring water, especially if running over a long distance or exploring a new trail
Research the trail before you leave home
Always stop and yield to walkers or hikers on narrow paths
Obey all safety signs (they are there for a reason)
Pack out at least the amount of trash you brought in
Keep dogs on a leash
WHERE TO START
Na Ala Hele, 973-9782 or www.hawaiitrails.org.
Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, 674-1459 or http://aditl.com/htmc.
The Hawai'i Nature Center, 2131 Makiki Heights Drive, Honolulu, HI 96822. Phone: 955-0100.
The Hawai'i Ultra Running team (HURT) is planning a series of trail runs over the next five months for trail runners of all levels. The races will get progressively longer.
The race dates:
Feb. 9Manoa Mystery Trail 5K
March 18'Aiea Trail Loop 4.4-mile run
April 20Pu'uualaka'a Park/Tantalus 10K
May 18Wa'ahilla Ridge 7-mile run
June 15Roots-n-Rocks 12-hour run at Hawai'i Nature Center
Fee: $10 per race or $40 for all races. Information: Greg Cuadra 949-5530