How do you transition from road running to trail running? Founder of Black Girls Do Run Tasha Thompson shares her journey from lifelong road runner to conquering the Serpent Trail with Salomon.
How I got into trail running
In 1999 I fell in love with road running and racing but none of my friends felt the same so I was a lone ranger for most of my 22 years of running.
That changed in 2017 when I bumped into Linda, a fellow runner, in our local park and we agreed to run together the following week. No more lone ranger!
2019 marked my 20 year running anniversary. However, despite all those years of experience, an encounter with a race marshal who questioned whether Linda and I were part of the race left me questioning the lack of diversity in races. This led to the creation of the Black Girls Do Run UK Instagram account. I wanted to give back to the sport that has given me so much and to encourage non-elite black women to run.
Black Girls Do Run UK has organically and beautifully grown into an amazing community of women championing and encouraging each other to step out of their running comfort zones.
Practicing what I preach, I took a step out of my own comfort zone when I signed up for the Serpent Trail 20km race.
Once upon a time I would never run on trails and passionately hated mud. I ran a small trail race in 2021 and not only fell but was stuck in the mud. I hated every minute of it but when I crossed that finish line I felt triumphant.
The trails are so different. The roads are predictable no matter the weather. The trails on the other hand are unpredictable. A downpour of rain changes the terrain so if you had a race plan, you'll need to think fast about how to tackle the changing conditions. With trail running you have to be flexible and be able to embrace the unexpected.
The coach and the kit that got me Serpent Trail ready
Training for this race has improved my overall fitness massively and I learnt so much from my coach Rachel. I used to be petrified of running downhill but Rachel taught me how to embrace running down hills and how to use them to my advantage. I learnt the best part of my foot to land on to avoid injury and how to navigate tree roots. All of these things will stay with me forever.
The only big obstacle in my training for a trail race was living in London. Trails are not necessarily nearby and it is so important to train on the terrain you are racing on. It costs both time and money to access many of the really good trails which is a barrier to many.
I'm fortunate to have the support of Salomon - one of my absolute favourite pieces of kit is the Salomon running vest. Before I owned one, I would notice other runners wearing them and I always thought they looked so professional.
I was delighted when Salomon sent me a running vest of my own - it makes me feel like Lara Croft and very pro whenever I wear it. All the pockets are great for organising my stuff and the flasks, which look deceivingly small, actually hold 500ml each.
Salomon also gave me a pair of trail running shoes which have elastic lacing that tucks away easily - a small detail but a game changer for me. No more stopping to tie laces!
I also loved the dhb 2in1 running shorts which fit beautifully.
Trail running is such a social sport and it was great to meet up with Rachel at the start. I also met Clare from Wiggle and had plenty of giggles (pardon the pun) on the coach to the start.
Fueled with a good breakfast, I was a combination of nerves and excitement but I knew I was ready. Rachel's coaching had boosted my confidence in tackling the terrain. There was a short debrief at the start and then off we went.
The whole experience was amazing - the route, the scenery, the coca cola at the aid station, the camaraderie from other runners - everything combined to make a day I'll remember for a long time.
The sound of singing from a nearby gospel concert was a sign that the end was near. I had enough in the tank for a sprint finish and Rachel was waiting for me at the finish line.
I felt happy, I felt triumphant, I did it! I ran the 20km Serpent Trail Race! I learned how to tackle trails, I learnt I can do hard things!
And my advice to anyone out there contemplating running a trail race is you can too! Explore your local trails and train on them at least once a week.