Last Sunday I ran my first trail running race. I have completed trail runs in adventure/multi-sport races and off-road triathlons, however this was my first official trail run. I am pleased to say that I came second in the long course (11.2kms) out of 88 women. I was hoping to finish in the top 10, so second place was a nice surprise. So how did I prepare for this race? Here are a few tips that will help you do well in your first trail running race:
- Run on the trails. This may seem obvious but it is absolutely essential. And I mean real trails. The rockier, hillier and uneven the better. I have discovered some new trails in my area, which have been great. Plus I have been running on single track after mountain biking, which has also been great preparation.
- Run hills – sprints and on longer runs. Again this is essential. Running hills builds strength as well as endurance. Also you need to get used to putting in a hard effort to climb a hill then quickly recovering to maintain your pace on flat sections.
- Learn how to run down hill. I have recently started running with a group of experienced adventure racers. I had no idea that there was such a skill to running down hill. You must lean forward, kick your heels up to your backside and use your arms to balance yourself. Being a fast down hill runner means you can gain time without putting in a lot of effort.
Trail running is a lot of fun. You enjoy nature while getting fit at the same time. It requires a different kind of fitness than road running. In a trail running race you are putting in efforts to run up hills then navigating over rocks then running down hill. If you are looking for a new challenge and are getting tired of running on the road I suggest you look for a trail running group in your area and enter your first race.