There is definitely a different culture between the two types of runners out in the world. As always there is cross over and the rouge runners who can move among both cultures without drawing much attention.
Road runners tend to run for miles rather than time. They are very concerned about running the exact miles listed on their training plan. Trail runners run from A to B with a shrug and a “seems about right to me.”
Road runners tend to match their clothing. Their socks match their shirt and the snazzy stripe on their shorts. Trail runners grab whatever feels right in the black of night and passes the sniff test.
Road runners avoid puddles. Trail runners splash through them with glee hoping both feet get equally wet.
Road races have limited options at aid stations: water, Gatorade, and a gel. Trail races have a buffet: cookies, candy, PB&J, trail mix, water, coke, mountain dew, and Gatorade.
Road runners carry no water or just tiny handheld water bottle. Their aid stations are typically two miles apart. Trail runners pack their hydration pack with water, a rain jacket, and blister kits. Their aid stations may be ten miles apart.
Road runners will wait for miles to find a port a potty. Trail runners have no shame when it comes to taking care of bodily functions in the presence of other runners.
Road runners look for flat fast courses. Trail runners look for the most elevation gain and least amount of pavement.
Some of this is in jest, of course, but some of it is very true. I spend a lot of time training on the road, but I run mostly trail races. Both types of runners have their pros and cons. Trail runners tend to be more laid back and willing to sacrifice their place in the race to help another runner. Road runners have an abundance of excitement and dedication to the sport.
All runners are healthier than your average American sitting on their couch all weekend. All runners are happier than the average American sitting on their couch all weekend.