Fall Running - Faster & Safer
With the fall season coming at the end of a yearly training cycle, it's likely that most runners are feeling their fittest. Therefore, you might find that your regular/easy pace is significantly faster than it was back in the winter. First, this is certainly due to your work ethic paying off. Second, the weather is best at this time of year (minus some warm weekends we had for key races, like Army 10-miler). Third, you’ve likely been doing more speed work in the fall and have probably been racing more often, so subconsciously you have been primed/triggered to pick up the pace. In any case, as you set out for a regular jog you might notice that you’re running “fast,” even though you’re not mentally in “workout mode.” Should you slow down? Nope! I say go with it! As long as you’re not beating yourself up out there and the legs feel fine, then go with the flow and let it ride.
As a second point with fall running, stay alert out there on the wooded trails that are littered with leaves on the ground. The underbelly of some of the leaves are moist and can cause you to slip, and some patches of leaves are covering up little potholes or oddly shaped tree roots. Autumn is a gorgeous season and a fun time of year to run through the woods and I encourage it, but for safety's sake, make sure you’re not spacing out too much on these runs. Most of the time, you know the trail like the back of your hand and you’re strong enough and athletic enough to be perfectly fine in terms of it being uneventful. But since I also want to encourage you right now to add some adventurous running into your mix and get off the beaten path, you have to keep your eyes alternating between the ground immediately underneath you and 10-15 feet in front of you. If you're running through a place like Rock Creek Park, then stay alert and plan your footing in advance.
A small percentage of runners are timid when it comes to running on these natural trails. My short answer is this: Strength training (ST) is a major guardian against a rolled ankle, so continue to do your ST shoes-off for improved foot and ankle strength. Make your ST dynamic and functional and you’ll have increased confidence on the trails, allowing you to enjoy the gorgeous autumn scenery.
Train hard and enjoy the foliage!