Running through mud
2021 could possibly be, amongst a few other things, the 'muddiest year ever'. When you are considering whether you should take a snorkel with you on a run, you know it's wet out there! Mud, slop, ooze, sludge, goop, gunge, muck, the list goes on, there are at least 60 different English words for mud which probably tells you that if you run trails in the UK, you're going to encounter a lot of mud. Given that mud is unavoidable at the moment we've put together some top tips for you to tackle the slippery brown stuff!
Get a grip
Having sufficient tread on your trail shoe (if you can keep it from getting clogged up) as well as the right grip type for the terrain is going to make a big difference. From massive lugs, to old school spikes and everything in between, trail shoes have many different treads, they are also made of different softness of rubber, grip patterns and depth of grip. Know which ones have the best grip for your terrain. For really slippery mud, deep lugs (around 1cm depth) plus a flexible sole will mean you are ready to tackle what lies ahead. The lug depth adds grip and the flexible sole allows the mud to shed on each footfall, as mud on mud equals zero grip!
Goretex trail shoes?
Tricky one, depends on whether you are going to be consistently running through puddles, if so, don't bother with waterproof shoes as they are more likely to become waterlogged as the water struggles to get out. If you suffer from cold, wet feet try waterproof socks instead. Let's face it you're going to need hosing down in the garden after this run anyways! Once you've washed your shoes (ideally after each run) stuff them with newspaper and let them dry naturally.
Be like Jesus and try to walk on water. Well what we mean is don’t put too much faith in each footing, moving quickly to the next foot will reduce the time you’re sinking into the mud. You can also reduce the weight on one foot by doing a mini step, hopping quickly to the next foot. Remember all of this mud running will be doing wonders for your core strength, proprioception and reaction speeds, so you'll be a pro come springtime!
Pick speed or direction
Don't be tempted to change speed and direction as that will result in a slide. Anticipate any changes in direction in advance and slow down before manoeuvring. Use shorter strides with high cadence to increase stability and reduce the chance of a wipe out.
Most of the time its best to just plough straight on through, keeping your stride and gait unchanged. That way you won’t risk a slip on the edge of the path which could see you not only land puddle bound but worse with a twisted an ankle. Plus a big splash in the middle of the puddle pushes the water away from your foot, just make sure you are quick to your next step to avoid the returning tidal wave of mud.
Some puddles are worse than others, watch out for those ones at the side of roads which could see you knee deep or have an uneven bottom. Be aware of narrow tracks which mountain bikers and horses use which can deep uneven ruts.
Just avoid bogs, areas of the Peak District are notorious. You can spend days getting out of those. If you do get stuck in them, spread your weight out as much as possible and if required use swimming techniques.
Leggings or better still a good coating of freshly dried mud will keep your legs warm so you can tackle all the mud and puddles on route with warm and reactive muscles.
Use your poles
As George Orwell once wrote... "4 legs are better than 2". Use the poles to dance along the path, jump the puddles with added security. Possibly even stop and use them as a depth gauge. Keep your hands out of the straps if you are at risk of falling, broken wrists are worse than muddy legs.
Which way is north?
Not that old chestnut again! Yes I like knowing where I am. It’s also true that paths that run east-west have more puddles on the southern aspect. Yes I am a nerd.
Choose a path less travelled
Less traffic means it's less likely to be muddy. Bridleways and byways are usually churned up more than footpaths, so picking routes avoiding them is a good idea when things are really bad!
Keep your mouth shut
You definitely don't want to ingest all that mud flying around, so try breathing more through your nose to avoid swallowing random detritus is highly recommended.
Let's face it, it's not avoidable, so you might as well make the most of it! Get stuck in, and cover yourself in trail!