One Dirty Magazine

Adventure Planning Basics

Tips, tricks and good ol' common sense for planning your first adventure run.

Kriste Peoples July 29th, 2020

Adventure Planning Basics

My first marathon was a dare.  An old friend urged me to join her by calling it an “adventure.” Neither of us knew what we were getting into, nor had we run a distance longer than nine miles at the time. It didn’t matter what you called it, that “adventure” had been poorly planned. Well, actually, it hadn’t been planned at all. But that ill-fated bipedal adventure set in motion my enduring fascination with adventures of all stripes, whether meticulously or loosely planned. 

That first adventure would cause me to lose my big toenails, chafe the skin off of my torso and struggle for a week each time I tried climbing stairs—and lowering and lifting myself off of the toilet. 

That first adventure would cause me to lose my big toenails, chafe the skin off of my torso and struggle for a week each time I tried climbing stairs—and lowering and lifting myself off of the toilet. 

Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have done anything differently only because I wasn’t interested in taking the time to establish a proper base mileage and building sensibly from there. And, while a full catastrophe regimen is one way to do it, here are some tips for planning a trail=running adventure that’ll help set you up for success.

Dream big, then wake up.

Every time I see an adventure film featuring some sleek athlete running a ridgeline at the top of the alpine wilds, I’m awed. I think about the times I’ve summited mountain peaks here in Colorado and felt the whoosh of accomplishment for my effort. Then I inevitably think about going bigger and doing more. Here’s where I also, inevitably, pause. Looking at those ads and adventure flicks we’ve all seen, have you ever asked yourself where that sleek athlete’s water is, and how they’re going to get home if they twist an ankle being so badass out there alone?

If you’re considering your first running adventure, you’ll want to ask yourself similar questions—and make sure you can answer them. Think through a couple of doomsday scenarios (What if I run out of water? What if a thunderstorm comes in on that high ridgeline?) and how you’ll work to address them. It’ll mean the difference between a great experience and its opposite. 

Assess your readiness.

Whether it’s a long bucket-list run or a shorter weekend wild hair, be sure to take a truthful assessment of whether your fitness level is a match for the demands of your activity. Whenever I’m looking for new trails to tackle, I’ll check sites like and, as well as the COTrex (Colorado Trail Explorer) app for an overall idea of what the routes entail. It’s also a great way to determine what they’ll demand of me.

Keep in mind: adventure doesn’t always mean longer distance or more rigorous effort. Expand your idea of adventure and let yourself be surprised by what you find.  

If the distance you’ve got your eye on isn’t doable just yet, consider where you are in your training and right-size your adventure by choosing an effort you know you’re ready for. Don’t dismiss the potential thrill of a rugged 10K through mountains and meadows, secluded in nature, or a peaceful run along a meandering river trail. Keep in mind: adventure doesn’t always mean longer distance or more rigorous effort. Expand your idea of adventure and let yourself be surprised by what you find.  

Get friendly with your gear.

Did I mention I did that first full marathon in brand-new, untested shoes? Go ahead, I can wait while you laugh at my folly. Some folks get lured into trying out new gadgets or gear. However, testing out your gear, breaking it in, knowing how it works and whether it’ll work for you when you need it is key.

So, boldly go on your normal daytime run with your headlamp just to get the feel of it—and check to see how long the charge or batteries last while you’re at it. Slather that new chafing cream all over your hot spots before you really need it; load up your mammoth hydration pack on a fun 5K just to get the feel of it.

Download that .gpx map to your watch or tracking app and get used to seeing yourself as that little blue dot or spot on the breadcrumb trail. Nothing’s off-limits here; get up close and personal with your gear and gadgets while you’re still in familiar territory because the more you know, well, the more the chance your next adventure will go smoothly. 

Know where you’re going.

While it can seem romantic or epic to spontaneously show up someplace and get your adventure on, it’s usually best to have studied where you’re headed first.

Start with a Google search for the trail you’re interested in, or dive into recent trail reports on AllTrails or Trail Run Project. Sift through what reviewers have said about it, its popularity and level of difficulty, wildlife sightings and water availability, but take everything you read with a grain of salt.

For an added layer of information, call the park ranger or management authority to get specifics on trail access, closures, fees and safety.  

Keep yourself safe.

A large part of minimizing injury can be taken care of in your preparation. If you’ll be going it alone, make sure you have everything you need to support you on the trail. As trail runners, we travel lighter than mountaineers and climbers, so our planning will leave little room for extras. Especially for longer adventures, it is important to make a detailed list of essential items.

In my own pack, I carry my keys, phone, sunscreen, snacks, water with electrolytes, a mini-first-aid kit, lip balm, a headlamp if it’s an evening run, hand sanitizer and tissues. If I’m running with a handheld water bottle, I’ll still wear a waist belt or runner’s fanny pack for my keys, tissues, hand sanitizer and lip balm. 

Check the conditions.

Know what the weather will be like before you go. Summer weather, particularly in the mountains can be fickle.  So, check weather apps or sites like for trail conditions, or for satellite tracking and air-quality alerts.

Keep an eye on your own health conditions, as well. If you haven’t been feeling well in the days leading up to your adventure, take a moment to gauge whether you’re ready to handle the added demands to your body.  

 Do you have a question about getting started trail running? Whether it’s about safety, navigation, strength or just building confidence, email  Kriste at

Kriste Peoples is a self-described outdoorist,  sunshine enthusiast and a Denver-based women’s trail-running coach with Lifes 2 Short Fitness.  More than just running, she uses activity to connect with her community and her environment while inspiring more women to take up space and run. 


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