Ok, according to the weather geeks, Spring is officially here. At least, meteorology speaking it arrived on March 1st.  But where I like to run, mountain trails and paths that seem to snake in and out of ravines and gullies, old man winter is still pretty much in evidence.  There are still plenty chances of a snow event happening anytime in the upper 48, (states that is).  But along with the snow, comes the mud that often is found on many trails that have never seen a grain of asphalt or other modified road compaction substances. Mud can actually be a hazard if you’re not ready to treat it with the respect it deserves when you’re running through it.   But like any running event, you need to keep yourself hydrated. And after all, you never know when having that extra bit of liquid nourishment with you will come in handy if you happen to find yourself stuck out in some stormy weather that just happens to blow in this time of the year. So that being said, I always cinch on my Camelbak 2017 Circuit Hydration Vest

There is just something about feeling this vest strapped around my body that gives me a feeling of having it all together. Reason being, there are a couple of things that I really like about this vest. One is that it already has all the “Reflectivity” I need, placed on the front and back of it for early morning or evening runs.  It doesn’t matter if I’m usually on a trail, it’s a good feeling that if something happens to me while I’m out there, anyone that comes looking for me, has a better chance of seeing that reflective glow then by my not having it on and they pass right by me if I’m lying there off the trail, unconscious. Then there’s also that extra storage, that’s available that’s designed using the “Harness Storage” system so that everything I need is well balanced to it does not act as an impediment for running on the trail, while it provides me with the ability to carry all of my running essentials to keep me fueled and hydrated, including specially designed Quick Stow flask pockets. For more easy to reach water access.

This time of year the weather seems to change each time the wind blows from a different direction. Rain and melting snow overpower thawing soils and, voila, what were once hard, if not icy trails become sludge sucking paths that can be even more slippery than they were when covered by packed snow and ice.  Keeping in mind that soft mud decreases the impact from running, especially on the descents, where the slop can provide a great surface for slowing the pace without stressing your joints.

To avoid slipping, shorten your stride, run more upright than normal, and keep your elbows more angled for lateral balance. If you start to slip, try to relax, slide with the skid, and control the recovery so as not to over-react and fall in the opposite direction.  Trying to maintain your balance while you’re going up and down these slick trails is going to be taxing on your stabilizing muscles. So don’t try to set a pace that you normally would be using when the terrain is dry and more stable. You’re going to not only be a lot sorer than you would be, but you’re going to wear yourself down that much more quickly as well.

Securely tie your shoes to prevent them from being sucked off in deep mud. After all who hasn’t experienced this kind of event when you’re just about ankle deep in that slippery ooze? Look for trail shoes that have secure collars around the ankles to prevent or limit mud seepage into the shoes. Losing a shoe in deep mud is a humbling experience, you end up kneeling with a sock on one foot, submerging your arm in deep muck trying to fish out the shoe that was devoured by the trail, while your companions fly right past you. If you know the trail will be muddy, wear older shoes.  Which goes back to the old adage of “Know Your Routes”!

If you happen to come upon part of your trail and you see that water is running down, or through it, try to run where the water is moving fastest because that tends to be the firmest surface.

Faster currents remove most of the sticky sediment, leaving behind gravel and rock. Although you’ll get wet, you greatly reduce the likelihood of getting bogged down as you would by muddier trail edges. This technique is also friendlier to the trail because it decreases the environmental impact of widening the trail, which is what happens when enough wimpy runners try to avoid getting muddy or wet and soon convert single track paths into major throughways.

Depending on the sensitivity of the region’s trail system, it may be advisable to avoid certain trails during typically muddy times of the year.

Assuming some familiarity with the area and its soil makeup, color and texture often indicate the content of mud. Choosing the firmest mud usually provides a relatively steady path through a bog.

Shiny mud usually has higher water content, which may mean it is more slippery, and if it is deep it could have greater suction power—like quicksand. If the mud has a high clay content, count on running with heavy feet through the muddy section of the trail, after which you should either scrape the mud off or find some clear water where you can use to clean off that clinging mud from your shoes and anything else that needs to be cleaned up.

There are no great secrets to running in the mud. Common sense will tell you to avoid deep puddles because after all, who likes running with wet socks, and it probably will pay off in the long run by going around them you can make up the milliseconds it costs to avoid them by being more comfortable and worrying less about blistering which results from running in wet socks and wet shoes.

But bottom line, running in the mud is part of getting out and enjoying the great outdoors instead of pacing time on an indoor treadmill or running around on an indoor track. This is real running after all. Get Outside – Get dirty, Have Fun, And Be A Smart Runner!