How to run on different terrain? Posted on August 3, 2017

By Rameshon


Picture 1 – Running at Bedok Reservoir

Two gentlemen, who have been doing personal training sessions with me, came to give me some feedback on the articles I have written, on not getting injured. One of them told me that by reading my articles, he  came out of plantar fasciitis injury, which has been there for a long time. He decided to keep doing his runs on grass, dirt ground, on a treadmill or on tarmac (road) track. He avoided pavement and he is able to run without fear of getting injured. 

Another gentleman just wanted to bring down his weight for my personal training sessions and he has been doing about 8km the most, once a week. After reading the articles in the blog, he told me that he was able to do 13km for the day, instead 8km. 

In the past, when I was doing my further studies at Loughborough University of Technology, I was reading a magazine called Athletics Weekly. Inside, I found out that the elite Kenyan athletes were able to do workouts everyday. One of the coach from Kenya told me, when I was in Kenya,” We train on soil, not hard ground.” So, that shows that the muscles are able to recover faster in soil and an athlete is able to not have much impact from the soil. Hence, one will definitely run faster over time. 

Another time, in year 1995, I did a fartlek workout and I had it done on soil, somewhere in Tuas, in year 1995. it was one of the toughest workout, but it was done on soil, softer than MacRitchie Reservoir terrain. My runs were fast and it allowed me to break the National Record from 2hr 28min to 2hr 24min 22sec. Soil, allowed me to recover very fast, and it is one experience that I have gone through. 

Having said that, it is important to rank the softness or the surface that provides more cushion so that runners can make informed choices. I shall write this using my own experience and reading knowledge as well. 

Rank 1

Grass – This terrain provides the most cushion, perhaps the public could garner support from N Park and other government authorities to get levelled grass beside roadway, beside park tarmac tracks etc. It is no point if people keep running and they get themselves injured and people won’t progress in running. It will be difficult to take 10000 steps per day by individuals as injury is an issue. Stadiums are good place for running as runners have only to use the sides of the field instead of running on the main field. Some stadiums allows this and some do not.

In schools, it is a good idea for school principals to keep the field for CCA and PE. After school hours, it is a good to let the public to jog inside the running track grass. In the past, we were able to run on grass and it was not an issue. We could run at colleges, but now, things are becoming very strict and may be the authorities could find out options that allows people to run on grass as well. After school hours, the stadium could be such that people are able to enter the school, and the stadium could engage a groundsman to man the stadium to benefit the society. 

The authorities should not worry about massive people running on grass as from my own experience I have found that only a rare few of very serious runners  run on grass. Also, especially from my experience, a number of girls are fussy to run on grass. The grass will not destroy the field, that is for sure. If you ask me, how many runners run on grass on stadium if it is allowed, I would say that throughout the day, only 1 -15 people run, or nearly none, daily. So, my perception is that it is okay to run on grass and it is a wise idea so that people do not get themselves injured as the problem lies in running on appropriate terrain. 

It is wise for runners to check which stadium allows activity to take place when  there is no field booking of stadium  going on. One should take advantage to run on the terrain.  

Rank 2

Soil- It is not hard ground and it is soft, but it is not too soft as the mud. At the same time, the sand should not stick to the shoe. This kind of ground is not easy to find. In beach, you can see this. 

Rank 3 

Sandtrack – You can see this at Bedok Reservoir. The terrain is made up of some tarmac and mostly of gravel and sand. By running here, one can avoid injury. 

Rank 4

Sand/Earth – This is actually dirt ground, the ground lessens the impact from the landing of the run. One can easily keep increasing one’s total mileage 10% per week. Try it!

Rank 5

Treadmill – This terrain is also good as the impact from running is cushioned. I have to read widely on this as my research was linked to synthetic track and treadmill for partial requirement of my degree. Except for people feeling bored to run on the treadmill, it is a good way to keep oneself from injury. The authorities are not able to provide this as it is expensive, but you can see this in Club FiTT and SAFRA Gym. One can purchase as well. 

Rank 6

Tarmac – It is a hard surface but it is not as punishing as pavement or concrete. There is a bit more cushion or there is softer landing, although road is not as hard as pavement.

Rank 7  

Synthetic Track- It looks soft but one can injured if one does not know the knowledge of terrain. From my own experience, too much running, like mileage or workout, tires the calf muscles and the calf muscles can get tired. Synthetic track are found to be rubberised but from my own feeling there is this hardness on the ground which I can feel it. 

Rank 8

Pavement – I suggest to the people to avoid concrete or pavement running. You only run some of it if the race is to be run on this terrain, so that the body is prepared and is adapted to run the terrain, for terrain specificity.  

In short, there is a rule in running, 75% run on soft surface and 25% run on hard ground, to be safe from injury, using the 10% rule to increase the total mileage of one’s run, per week progressively, as well.