Why Trail Running?
Trail running is... the satisfaction of covering miles of beautiful backcountry unfettered by heavy gear ... the primal thrill of bounding over logs on a forested downhill trail ... an inspirational vista reached after a long climb. Backcountry running offers unequalled leg and lung conditioning, no crowds, no cars, no noise, no smog, no pavement. It's a perfect quick-wilderness-long-workout combination.
Some have called it a "revolution", as people move away from pounding the pavement in cities and onto the dirt trails of the woods. It's one of the fastest growing sports today (yet still a small niche). It's easier on the knees and lungs (cleaner air).
Who should try it?
Really, anyone curious about it. But especially runners with a love of wilderness, hiking, and backpacking. Try it once, and you'll never go back to street or track running again (or you'll never like it quite as much!). Ultralight speed hikers and backpackers will naturally gravitate to this sport.
Isn't this an elitist sport for ultra runners?
No (thankfully!). You can go as long as you'd like. At whatever speed you'd like. There's much less pressure (or none) compared to road running. However, if you're like most trail runners, you'll naturally want to push ever farther, longer, and faster, and trail races will seem increasingly appealing. There are lots trail races of all distances, not just the 50 - 100 milers. The golden guideline "walk the uphills, run the downhills" will take the mere mortal trail runner surprisingly long distances.
Where can I go trail running?
There are trails in almost every part of the country; even huge cities have large parks with trail systems. Better than nothing. However, for the best trail running experience, you must try backcountry dirt, away from highway corridors and streets. Yes, that means traditional hiking trails are often the best places to have an amazing trail run, and if you can run a wilderness hiking trail, you've found heaven. Of course, trailhead proximity is a factor; you will have to decide how far you are willing to drive to run regularly.