“Stay to the right, so if I slip, I won’t fall down the cliff and into the river.”

That was just one of the thoughts I had on Saturday as I ran my first leg of a nearby one-day relay. I was part of a four-woman team. We each ran three legs over 50 miles, and I actually wanted the leg described as “tough” and “muddy.” I guess there are a lot of variations of “tough.” It was one of the most difficult runs of my life. So why do I want to go back?

Trail running makes me feel connected to nature; makes me notice each foot touching the earth below me. (Probably because I have to stare at the ground so I won’t trip.) But trail running is also a good workout. Here are five reasons why you should try it:

1. Trail running will make you stronger. Jumping over logs, sidestepping rocks and leaping over roots will only make you a stronger runner. You use more of your body during trail running, including important glute and core.

2. Trail running is easier on your joints. The soft surface gives so you can run longer and with less of a chance of developing an overuse injury. Of course, the risks of rolling an ankle or falling are a little bit higher, but pounding the pavement run after run after run can really do some long-term damage to your joints.

3. Trail running is more fun. Bounding through the woods makes you feel like a kid again.

4. Trail running is good for the mind. I’ve read that trail running can help you zone out while you run, but I am not so sure. Actually, my mind works double-time on the trails keeping track of what’s ahead – log, puddle, rock – so that I know where to place my feet or where to jump or walk so that I stay upright. Trail running works the body and the brain!

5. Trail running is beautiful. Trees and streams can really make trail running worth it. Sure, you don’t get to look around a whole lot because you have to pay attention to the terrain, but you can sort of see it in your peripheral vision. Here’s the thing: It’s not always about what you can see. Listening to birds chirp and rivers rush is a lot more enjoyable than engines roaring and horns honking, right?