My senior year of high school they started using our cross-country course for a steeplechase for horses.  Not the whole course, just a large field to the right of the school.  Running on grass or fields never really bothered me – to be honest I never really thought about it.  But after landing in so many horse divots and watching my teammates and I twist our ankles I inadvertently became a lover of road racing.  Where I could have a clear visual of the ground ahead of me.

There are many different kinds of runs – long distance, recovery, fartlek, progression, tempo, hills, intervals and runs you go on just to collect miles.  I did a 5 mile fartlek this morning – and it was great!  I ran both my recovery minutes and my intense minutes at a faster pace.

Running speed on the treadmill is great for my sore foot too.  I do not have to face the variations of the ground below me.  Which got me to thinking about that cross-country course covered in divots, all the different kinds of runs and all the different kinds of surface I run on.  Each surface serves a purpose, geared for that kind of run, exposure and speed.

The Surface Serves a Purpose

The track

I honestly did go to a really great high school, but the steeplechase thing could’ve probably been thought through a little more.  Also, the track was a gravel track.  Maybe it wasn’t just the other sports that looked down on runners….hmmmm….But generally speaking, the synthetic tracks of today really lend to great speed workouts.  I go to the track to do intervals.  The distance is so clearly laid out.  The ground is soft and forgiving.  Makes for a faster recovery.  If I am planning a 200, 200, 400, 800 workout?  The track is where I want to be for that.

The trail

2 different kinds of trails out there.  The paved trail (yes! yes!) or the dirt trail (do you have a paved one?)

The paved trail is great for me to do my long distance runs on.  The ground changes some – there are occasional different gradients, there is a hole here or there THAT YOU CAN CLEARLY SEE – overall there are just some changes that make your feet move in different angles.  Builds their character.  And come race day, the experience helps.

Grouped into the paved trail, I would put sidewalks, roads, concrete – anything paved.  Some variability but you have a clear view of the ground ahead of you.

There are dirt trails that cut off of my paved trails.  Those aren’t my favorite.  I have run 2 trail races in the past 4 years and have landed on some rock, some leaf covering a hole, some exposed tree root and hurt my ankles – and I really don’t feel like I have weak ankles.  Although the ground is less stressful on the joints, which eases recovery time, it is unpredictable and I kind of like predictability.

Sand?  Snow?  Grass?

I don’t enjoy running on snow.  I’m too scared of falling.  I don’t enjoy running on sand.  For some reason it hurts my knees.  I will run on some grass, but that constant fear of not being able to have a clear visual of the ground variation gets me scared.  And if the grass is wet, I fear falling.  Remember how I told you about the Tough Mudder being 10 miles of hills?  Some of those were downhills.  Steep, wet, slippery downhills – Momma didn’t like those AT ALL.

But each of these ground variations will change your workout.  Will make you work your body a little differently and provide strength in a new way, new area – and come race day, that’s great!

The treadmill

I am way meaner to my treadmill than I should be.  It is always there, ready to run.  It is great for me to do any kind of run – my favorites being the fartlek, progression or collect miles run.  The surface is predictable.  It makes me move at a steady pace.  The treadmill can mess with my mind – make a run seem like it is taking FOREVER.  But that also helps me with my mind training.  Incline is always there for some hill training.  So versatile, so steady and the ground is so predictable.  I guess I do love my treadmill!


Lots of different kinds of running, lots of different kinds of surfaces.  The surfaces serve a purpose in the kind of running you are doing.  Tracks are great for speed workouts.  Paved running offers some subtle variations that will help your feet come road race day.  Treadmill training is steady and rhythmic.  Trail running offers a lot of variability .  Changing the surface you run on will change the stress on your joints, your recovery time will lessen, in general, when running on softer surfaces.  And you know what?  A little change of surface pace may just be what your workout needs to spice up a run!


photo credit: <a href=”″>TJ Running</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;