Before I begin, I’ll let you in behind the scenes here at blog HQ. I have a list in Evernote where I keep ideas for blog posts. Every half-formed idea goes on the list – I don’t judge it as good or bad, or try to determine where it may fit.
If I have an idea, it goes on the list. I’ll figure out later how to turn it into a post.
Earlier this year, I had the idea of doing posts on running in different seasons: ‘running in spring,’ ‘running in the fall,’ ‘running in the summer.’ I immediately thought it was the silliest idea I’d ever had. But it still went on the list.
Then I did a trail run earlier this fall, spending a large part of the run convinced I was going to twist an ankle since I couldn’t see anything through the deep cover of fallen leaves.
Maybe the idea wasn’t as silly as I’d first thought.
It just goes to show you, there is no such thing as a bad idea, it’s all timing and context.
Running In The Fall
The main challenge for running in the fall is leaves.
A trail covered in red and gold fallen leaves may be beautiful, but there can be danger behind that beauty. Leaves can be slippery and they make it impossible to see what you are stepping on.
Another risk can be quickly turning weather – heat waves turn into snowstorms overnight, freezing winds can come up on what had been a beautiful day.
If you aren’t prepared, these quick changes can be dangerous.
Avoid Leaves (if you can)
You can’t protect yourself from what you cannot see.
Tree roots are generally my number one concern on the trail, but there are plenty of other dangers: rocks, holes, fissures, slugs (I live in banana slug country, I’m convinced I’ll slip on one someday).
None of these are visible when fallen leaves cover everything.
Who knows what dangers lurk under them there leaves.
Run clear, leaf-less, routes if you can.
Take the opportunity to enjoy a trail in an evergreen forest. Pine needles are much easier to see through.
Slow down and pay more attention to your footfalls.
I’ve already mentioned the dangers of fallen leaves, but I’ve also found that the low sunlight of fall shining through tree branches creates odd light patterns and optical illusions making it really hard to judge the terrain.
But there is an upside: it’s so beautiful, slowing down just means more time to enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.
Assume The Worst
While ‘assume the worst’ is generally a terrible philosophy to live by, in this particular and limited circumstance, it will help keep you safe.
Assume the worst, as in:
- Assume the pile of leaves you can’t see under is hiding something you can trip over.
- Assume that other pile of leaves is wet and super slippery even when it hasn’t rained in days.
- Assume the car at the intersection doesn’t see you.
Under the best of circumstances, it’s all too easy for drivers to not see runners.
But in the fall, the trees are a hundred different colors, making it that much easier for runners to blend into their surroundings.
The time change messes with driver’s routines.
Sunlight can be more of a challenge in the fall, the sun is lower in the sky so shadows can play funny tricks. No matter where I’m headed, the light always seems to be shining directly in my eyes no matter the time of day.
If you will be in an area with cars or other traffic, be extra careful to make sure you are seen.
It can be a challenge to remain visible when the trees are 100 different colors (effortless camo!), but do your best.
(sorta related: Runners World just had an article about staying safe on the trails in hunting season, check it out if those dangers apply to you)
Be Extra Prepared
Fall weather is extra unpredictable, so err on the side of caution.
A day can start off warm and sunny and can very quickly turn cold, windy, snowy and rainy.
Carry that extra layer.
If you on the fence if you should carry …whatever… on your run, carry it.
Gloves? Can’t hurt.
Windbreaker? Take It.
As my mother always says: better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.