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Trail Running Tips from Eric Orton

The “Born to Run” coach offers running advice for the mind and body.

The “Born to run” coach offers running advice for the mind and body.

In the book Born to Run, runners of every ilk were inspired by author Chris McDougall’s account of his transformation from out of shape and injured to an ultrarunner. His coach Eric Orton—whose innate knowledge of biomechanics and the benefits of a natural running form centered around quick steps, a forefoot strike and dynamic leg power—was instrumental to the shift. Luckily for the rest of us, Orton penned a book, The Cool Impossible, outlining his training methods. He continues to coach and now offers running camps in the idyllic mountain setting of Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he shares advice on good running form and training as well as dispensing nuggets of mountain wisdom and lessons learned through time on the trails.

See if you can’t help but get inspired by some of his insights and mountain wisdom.

More is not better, better is better
“To get good at running long, you need to get better at running short,” says Orton, who considers a one-mile run to be the best indicator of long-distance performance.

Have patience
From monitoring pace, letting the ground meet you instead of over striding when descending, managing effort and energy, understanding the terrain and consistently working on form, going long comes down to patience.

Negative thoughts happen
“I can’t do this.” “My feet/hip/shoulder/big thumb hurts, I’ll just quit.” “This sucks.” We’ve all had these thoughts or similar while running. Orton says the trick is using the thoughts to bring awareness to what’s going on with your body. Do you need to eat, hydrate or adjust your form? What’s your heart rate? Listen to the negative thoughts and learn from them, but don’t give them power. Use them for action. “It’s not important what we think, it’s important what we do after we think,” Orton says.

RELATED: 5 Tips For Trail Running Etiquette

Run on your feet, not your shoes
Despite a popular misconception, Orton’s focus is not barefoot running. His emphasis is natural form. Yes, the design of some shoes makes natural running easier than others, but Orton’s point is that no matter the shoe, runners need to be aware of their feet—how and where they meet the ground, whether toes are splaying and gripping the terrain and a feeling power and energy radiating from the feet throughout your legs and body for strong running. According to Orton, “Run strength and performance is dictated by how well you use your feet.”

What if failure didn’t exist?
This is Orton’s main tenet in The Cool Impossible. Crazy? Liberating? Both? Maybe, but it will give you something to ponder on your next long run.