101-Trail Running

A common concern of people new to trail running or people stepping up the distance of their trail running event is “Can I make the distance?”

After all you have invested a lot of time into training for the event, you have sacrificed evenings with family and friends to get to bed early, the family has backed you and helped you through the training, not to mention put up with you being grumpy and hungry and owe did I mention grumpy? No doubt you have been sleep deprived due to early morning trainings at least once or twice. You have almost put your life on hold for this dam event. And you’re not even sure you’re going to make the distance!

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that what your doing in training is the right things? We will look to put your mind at ease and cover three take home points that you can ensure are in place with your own running.

Before we go any further, we need to outline a few things. Firstly, there is a big difference between completing (I’m new to running and just want to finish) and competing (I want to see how well I can do, I want to race) in an ultra trail event. For the purposes of the following we are looking at someone who is aiming to complete an ultra trail race.

Endurance events are unique in that often competitors from a beginner right through to the elite won’t run the whole distance in a single training event prior to the race. If you have never completed the distance before this leaves you with that big question, “Can I make the distance?”

An understanding of why you don’t need to complete the whole distance in a single training session prior, helps you to be more comfortable that you will make the distance come the big day. So why don’t we run the entire distance in a single training run prior to the big day?

Firstly, in training you are going to run again the week following your ‘Key Endurance Run’ or long run, i.e. a few days later. This is different to a big race when you are not expected to run again immediately following your event. This means that when you would normally be aiming to go out for another run, you have earnt the right to put your feet up and relax. You are going to need it!

The next component that we need to be aware of is the distance of the event or more importantly the approximate expected time the event will take you to complete. Regardless of your running ability, the longer the event the lower the intensity you will need to run at. As a result training needs to reflect the time it will take you to complete your event.

So what do I need to ensure with my own training?

  • Gradually increase your Key Endurance Run (Long Run) distance to 55% of the race distance on similar terrain.
  • Gradually increase your weekly volume to 110% of the race distance. With at least the Key Endurance Run & one supporting run being on similar terrain. Remember the guidelines state you should increase run volume no quicker than 10% per week (www.sma.org.au).
  • Make sure you give yourself a chance to recover in the last 10-14 days prior to the event. This doesn’t mean no running in this period, but run volume/ time should be reduced.

With these things in place as well as an understanding of why you don’t need to run the full distance in a single training set you will be putting yourself in the best position to be confident at the start line, that you will make it to the finish line.