How to Spot a Trail Runner in the Wild

These shy, slender creatures are among running’s most graceful and exotic specimens.

The Trail Runner (Lopus granolas)

Because of their quick reflexes, speed over tricky terrain, and instinctive distrust of humans, Trail Runners are difficult to spot and even more difficult to photograph. Sightings in the wild are rare but can be very rewarding.

As their name suggests, Trail Runners are found exclusively or nearly exclusively on trails and paths, and in other “nature”-based locations. In rare cases, you may encounter a trail runner in a suburban setting, looking frightened and confused. If that happens, experts recommend avoiding eye contact and contacting your local wildlife agency.

A Trail Runner found in an urban environment may have to be sedated and airlifted to safety.

Nature, man. | Photo: Dan Engel

Distinguishing Characteristics

Facial hair (males); 2.5 percent body fat; eyes that seem to see right through you; water bottle strapped to hand


Tall, thin, lean, tan; often shirtless; filthy ankles and shins. Trail Runners are roughly 75 percent more likely than other runners to have one or more tattoos.


Nature, man. Nothing like it.

Feeding Behavior

In line with their devotion to nature and simplicity, Trail Runners gravitate toward simple diets of berries, nuts, and vegetables. They may occasionally trap and eat a fish or small bird.


Just the sounds of his footfalls and the rhythm of his own breathing; the phrase “right on”

Mating Call

More rhythmic breathing, but faster and more urgent

Running Style

A Trail Runner in full flight is the very picture of grace. Because he has evolved to navigate terrain filled with rocks, roots, holes, streams, and various forms of wildlife, and to do so nearly unconsciously, he runs with an ease and fluidity that is the envy of all other runners.

Closest Relatives

The Ultrarunner; the Grizzled Vet

Enemies and Threats

Roots; snakes; ticks; asphalt; mountain bikers

Reprinted from Runners of North America by Mark Remy. Copyright (c) 2016 by Mark Remy. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.