Trail run­ning – in­sights into the run­ning boom re­quir­ing a shift from ef­fi­cient to adap­tive!

Outer Edge - - Contents -

Sim­ple right, same as nor­mal run­ning but just on a few dirt roads and tracks. Wrong! There are many dif­fer­ences be­tween Trail and Road run­ning and we wanted to give you an ex­pert in­sight into not only how it is so dif­fer­ent but also how you can be bet­ter pre­pared to take on the trails.

Trail run­ning is rel­a­tively new to the run­ning pop­u­la­tion in gen­eral. In re­cent years the hard-core Trail run­ners have had to ac­cept that their niche com­mu­nity would no longer re­main known to only to a hand­ful of run­ners. Whilst this has caused some ten­sion, there is a grad­ual ac­cep­tance amongst run­ners now that there is room for both types of run­ners and even more even if you add the Ad­ven­ture/ob­sta­cle events into the fray.

How­ever even the Trail­run­ners at the top end of the field don’t al­ways agree on what it the best was to tackle a hill or set of stairs of fly down that rocky bit of ter­rain. Whilst there are some con­flict­ing views on how its best to cover cer­tain sec­tions of trail, there are some very unique dif­fer­ences be­tween Road and Trail run­ning and be­ing aware of them is only go­ing to get you bet­ter pre­pared.

Lets take one step back first. Trail run­ning has ex­ploded in re­cent years. Not only in the num­ber and type of off road run­ning events that you can now par­tic­i­pate in but the num­ber of peo­ple ac­tu­ally tak­ing on the chal­lenge. Take a look at the Ul­tra Trail Aus­tralia (for­mally North Face 100) event held an­nu­ally in the Blue Moun­tains. As one ex­am­ple. It used to be a race only for the hard-core and Elite run­ners.

It still main­tains that edge, but 4 years ago a 5o km race was added to the ex­ist­ing 100km event and last year a 22km race was added. Both those shorter dis­tances sold out within a week this year. So caught off guard were the or­gan­is­ers in the first 50km run­ning in 2013 that Vlad clearly re­mem­bers run­ning the event and fin­ish­ing be­fore the fin­ish was even set up! Times have changed. So lets look at some of the main dif­fer­ences be­tween Road and Trail run­ning.

In­creased mus­cle en­gage­ment

Trail run­ning en­gages more of your body’s mus­cles then Road run­ning. Road run­ners don’t need as much up­per body strength! But a trail run­ner will al­most cer­tainly fall over, need to brace him or her­self, pull them­selves up hills and steep stair sec­tions and carry their gear and nu­tri­tion around an event. The Fix: Get Run­strong! Hit the gym at least weekly in­cor­po­rat­ing Func­tional strength work for run­ners. I lead a Weekly Run­strong class says Vlad “and the moves are run spe­cific and in­cor­po­rate moves to switch on and strengthen the legs, core and im­por­tantly the up­per body, you would be amazed at how lit­tle work run­ners pay to this type of ex­er­cise”. Whilst this type of train­ing is ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial for all run­ners, for those tack­ling the Trails its al­most as im­por­tant as run train­ing it­self.


Alone for pe­ri­ods of time whilst re­fresh­ing and ex­hil­a­rat­ing can also be dif­fi­cult and lonely – then add to that the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing to run in the dark. Vlad says “Al­though it was only for an hour or so I vividly re­mem­ber run­ning for ex­tended pe­ri­ods with­out see­ing an­other per­son in my first long dis­tance Trail run and the slightly un­nerv­ing feel­ing of won­der­ing if you may have missed a turn or the noise of an an­i­mal scur­ry­ing through the bush some­where close by, but then the in­stant re­lief on the next hu­man con­tact” The Fix: Men­tal tough­ness is very im­por­tant. You need to push bound­aries in train­ing so come event day you don’t fall apart if some­thing isn’t go­ing to plan. Hav­ing a thor­ough knowl­edge of the course will set your mind at ease.


Even shorter dis­tance races when in com­par­i­son to Road run­ning events, may take two to three times longer to com­plete sim­ply due to the ter­rain. On av­er­age Trail run­ning events are longer 20 plus kilo­me­tres with many at the 50km and even more. That’s part of the draw­card re­ally; it’s an ad­ven­ture and not just an­other run. Se­ri­ous plan­ning and train­ing goes into pre­par­ing for many of th­ese runs and the sense of achieve­ment at com­plet­ing such a chal­lenge will keep you com­ing back and look­ing for the next chal­lenge, but to fin­ish will re­quire your ut­most ded­i­ca­tion. The Fix: Build­ing in a key train­ing week­end where you run more than you would nor­mally is a key part of run­ning prepa­ra­tion. Run­ning camps also help pre­pare run­ners for th­ese longer events, but be pre­pared to put in some longer train­ing runs in com­par­i­son to road races and this will re­quire some for­ward plan­ning for time, the route and the nu­tri­tion re­quire­ments.

Equip­ment re­quire­ments

Al­most any event longer them a few kilo­me­tres will have cer­tain rules and re­stric­tions when com­pared to the road. Likely the first be­ing di­rec­tions. Trail runs are usu­ally marked with di­rec­tional ar­rows and rib­bon and th­ese can be hard to spot too. That’s just the start though, you will likely me made to carry hy­dra­tion and nu­tri­tion and de­pend­ing on the event the list can be quite long and spe­cific and pos­si­bly bulky and heavy, so you need to know what you need and how to take it! The Fix: The first place will be check­ing the events manda­tory and rec­om­mended equip­ment list, then get it and prac­tice run­ning in it well be­fore the event.


Stat­ing the ob­vi­ous, but the ter­rain whilst not only dif­fer­ent to road run­ning can be across mul­ti­ple sur­face types not lim­ited to grass, creeks, gravel, sand, snow and then add flat steep up­hill, down­hill nar­row, and the list goes on. The Fix: Get a good un­der­stand­ing of the par­tic­u­lar event you are go­ing to be tak­ing on and prac­tice. If your event will have lots of steep hills for ex­am­ple prac­tice run­ning and walk­ing hill re­peats in train­ing. Even the best run­ners will walk sec­tions of a course so you need to know how best to do this prior to race day.

In sum­mary, the best run­ners on road are the most ef­fi­cient run­ners, whereas on the Trail you will have to be­come more adap­tive to best take on the chal­lenge. This re­quires a dif­fer­ent train­ing ap­proach.

So how do you best pre­pare?

Over com­ing episodes Vlad Sha­trov will share with you the spe­cific tech­niques, which can be in­cor­po­rated into your run train­ing to make you your ul­ti­mate Trail run­ner.

Vlad Sha­trov of Runlab has de­vel­oped a spe­cific in­ter­val based trail run­ning of­fer­ing “my­trail­group”. In its first ever of­fer­ing in Oc­to­ber 2016 run­ners have been ex­posed to chal­leng­ing ses­sions in beau­ti­ful ter­rain able to learn the tech­niques that will help them come race day. “Whilst I’ve had the de­sire to of­fer this for quite a while – there was noth­ing like it out there and I’ve had to go away re­search, prac­tice and de­sign along with Adam Clarke of Up­nadam per­for­mance coach­ing, the best tech­niques to teach this to those run­ners look­ing to add this par­tic­u­lar set of skills to their reper­toire”

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