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Turning The Corner


It’s something most trail runners don’t consider until it’s too late: you’ve overshot a switchback, or come out of a blind berm and BANG! There’s a tree in the way and it’s not in the mood to move. Time to take a leaf from the two-wheel brigade and learn some trail running tips on how to negotiate a singletrack corner.

By Chris Ord:

The ability to quickly change direction in trail running is (unlike road running) a crucial skill, not least to dodge the headache of butting an unsighted tree. Many of the trails we run feature super tight corners. The ability to sweep around them can, on a twisty course, mean significant time – not to mention energy – savings. It’s all about the physics of momentum.

And here we take a leaf from mountain bikers. Go to any MTB skills course and one of the earlier lessons on cornering will be to anticipate where you need your momentum to be, and how to move your body to set up for that change, well before you need to nail the apex. You can apply the same tips to trail running.

  1. Look through the corner. Turn your head (for example, when you’re on a right-hand bend, turn your head to the right), and look in the direction you want to end up running in after you’ve rounded the corner. This then sets you up to…
  2. Turn your belly button (in our example, to the right) just before you enter the corner when you’re trail running. With your head already turned, your core should follow and begin pointing around the corner just before you get into it. This sets your body up to capture as much of the forward momentum as you can and shift it around the corner efficiently.
  3. Your upper body accounts for most of your mass, and with head, shoulders and stomach all twisted as you enter the corner, your hips and legs will naturally follow. By contrast, if you hit the corner first and only then tried to turn your body, it’s too late – momentum is already propelling you straight forward, and you’ll have to work really hard to correct, or overshoot the corner.

This is the standard cornering approach for all mountain biking and the fundamentals hold true for two legs as for two wheels. Mountain bikers also lean on their bike, and trail runners do the same with their body, leaning slightly into the corner.

Using Berms

Mountain-bike trails provide sensational singletrack for trial running too, with technical features including berms – raised bends in a wending trail, specifically designed for maintaining momentum and sling-shotting out of the exit. Even on non-groomed tracks you’ll often find a large slab or bank of earth to use as a berm, helping you get around a corner at speed…once you know how. Here are our tips for trail running using berms:

  1. Follow the same cornering principles described above (look through to the exit, twist your head, shoulders and bellybutton early, drawing your legs around).
  2. Good bikers don’t touch their brakes on a berm and similarly, trail runners should maintain confidence and speed to stay high (if you hesitate and slow down, you’ll falter and fall down the slope).
  3. Find the right speed for you. The faster you go, the more force your quads have to bear, which can get tough during a long run.

This is the first in the series of tips for trail runners.

Stay tuned for more tips to help you get the most out of your time in the great outdoors whether that be on foot or bike.

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