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The Beginner’s Guide to Trail Running in Colorado

From training tips to must-have gear to the best routes near Denver, here's everything you need to know to learn how to trail run in the Centennial State.

Boulder's Mesa Trail. Photo by Sarah Banks

Elite off-road runners flock to the Front Range, and it’s easy to see why: A quick scroll through Instagram finds Boulder’s Scott Jurek, who once held the speed record for the Appalachian Trail, bounding up Mt. Bierstadt; Leadville’s Courtney Dauwalter, 2018’s Ultra Runner of the Year, dangling her running shoes over a snowy peak; and a shirtless Anton Krupicka, a two-time winner of the Leadville Trail 100 Run, balancing on the edge of the First Flatiron.

Every year, the epic images inspire a growing number of Coloradans to follow in these world-class athletes’ footsteps; the allure of reaching our most majestic and peaceful places solely on their own power is seemingly irresistible to the state’s outdoor-recreation-happy populace. The problem? Newbies may know how to run, but they don’t know how to trail run. “People get these big summer dreams and then burn themselves to embers right away,” says David Roche, who leads the Boulder-based Some Work, All Play running team with his wife, Megan.

That’s not to say beginners need to hire running coaches and nutritionists and divest their 401(k)s to buy all the latest gear. They do need a plan, however. We spent a year getting up to speed on Colorado’s scene and tapping into the expertise of some of the state’s most accomplished runners—all to help you blaze a trail without burning out.

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