Thoughts About Run­ning

Trail Train­ing for City Dwellers

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - By Madeleine Cum­mings

Canada’s most iconic trail races are known for their nat­u­ral land­scapes, from alpine views to re­mote val­leys. One of the joys of rac­ing on the trails is find­ing your­self alone on the sin­gle-track with only wildf low­ers for com­pany.

Some run­ners are lucky to have these set­tings as their back­yards, but that’s not the case for the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans. Ac­cord­ing to cen­sus data from 2016, 82 per cent of Cana­di­ans live in large or medium-sized cities. In fact, the coun­try is be­com­ing more ur­ban­ized, with larger cities grow­ing and smaller ones shrink­ing.

De­spite this, trail races are grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, both here and in the United States. A 50k race on chal­leng­ing ter­rain has gone from a fringe ac­tiv­ity to a bucket list item. Ur­ban run­ners can sur­vive t r ail races af­ter weeks of road run­ning, but most race di­rec­tors don’t rec­om­mend it. A few sim­ple changes to a train­ing plan can bet­ter pre­pare ur­ban run­ners for the ru­ral races they’re tar­get­ing.

Hit the stairs

As well as un­even foot­ing and un­pre­dictable wildlife, trail run­ners con­tend with moun­tains – some­times mul­ti­ple sum­mits in one race. Ex­treme el­e­va­tion gain is hard to sim­u­late in a city, but it’s not im­pos­si­ble.

In­door stairs in sky­scrapers are a good op­tion if you’re sneak­ing in a run dur­ing a lunch break.

“It’s all about re­peats and in­clud­ing the down­stairs, be­cause trail races have a lot of com­pli­cated foot­work,” said David Checkel, the op­er­a­tions lead for Ed­mon­ton’s bian­nual trail se­ries, the Cana­dian River Val­ley Re­venge.

Checkel, a vet­eran trail run­ner, rec­om­mends start­ing with fairly rig­or­ous runs up the stairs, then tran­si­tion­ing to walk­ing up and run­ning down as fast as you can safely. The con­fi­dence you build on the way down can help pre­pare you for steep de­scents dur­ing a trail race.

Cross-train cre­atively

Run­ning on un­even ter­rain re­duces some of the repet­i­tive mo­tions that can lead to overuse in­juries. It also re­quires more sta­bi­liz­ing mus­cles and typ­i­cally forces run­ners to slow down.

Trail run­ners can still ben­e­fit by cross-train­ing reg­u­larly. Ply­o­met­rics (short jump­ing ex­er­cises), skip­ping, lunges, squats, calf raises and heel walks can help im­prove foot speed and strengthen the wider range of mus­cles you’ll need on the trails. Pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to strength­en­ing your an­kles and core. Other sports, such as cy­cling, swim­ming, and snow­shoe­ing and cross-coun­try ski­ing in win­ter, im­prove run­ners’ strength and en­durance.

DIY trail

Three years ago, Checkel moved in or­der to live next to a ravine with great run­ning trails, but you don’t have to re­lo­cate to find more chal­leng­ing routes. Ur­ban run­ners can con­struct their own “trails” in any city park by adding ob­sta­cles and tak­ing ad­van­tage of var­ied ter­rain. Take the Beach neigh­bour­hood in Toronto’s east end as an ex­am­ple: A run­ner could con­struct a route with tight loops around trees, pedes­trian-dodg­ing on the board­walk, and beach run­ning on the shore.

Stay safe on race day

Safety is im­por­tant dur­ing any run, no mat­ter the set­ting, but there are added dan­gers dur­ing trail races that ur­ban run­ners should keep in mind. Al­though cars are not a threat on the trails, bears can be, so it’s im­por­tant to re­main aware of your sur­round­ings and avoid run­ning with mu­sic in your ears. On moun­tain ridges and other tech­ni­cal paths, pay­ing at­ten­tion and pick­ing your legs up is para­mount. When Checkel races on the trails, he re­peats this mantra: “One step could put me out of the race.” Madeleine Cum­mings is a jour­nal­ist based in Ed­mon­ton. Read her col­umn in each is­sue of Cana­dian Run­ning.

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