Register for your first trail race! December 29 2016, 0 Comments
I know many runners who are satisfied with just running for the sake of running, without targeting a goal event in mind, but many others I know prefer to structure their training around an event that’s months away. I think I, too, belong in the latter camp. Having a target race on the calendar can help bring meaning but also structure to training without robbing yourself of the “joy” factor, too.
As 2016 begins to come to a close and you’re looking at your race calendar for 2017, why not take a risk and do something that’s perhaps out of the ordinary for you -- register for a trail race. As I mentioned, I’ve been running for a long time now, but it’s only been within the past few years that I’ve gotten into trail running, and let me assure you: it’s an adventure out there!
Below, I’ll give you some of my bits of wisdom and reasons why you should take the plunge and register for a trail race (or several) in 2017.
It’ll shake up your daily running and bring you a new focus. Unless you already run exclusively on trails every single day, chances are high that foraying into training for a trail run will bring a new focus to your running, which can be a good thing. It’s really tempting and ridiculously easy to do the same running route day after day, but it obviously gets pretty boring and stale after a while. When you’re training for a trail race, you’ll probably find that you need to do a different type of training -- maybe by training with the focus of “time on my feet,” perhaps, or by including lots of hill repetitions and elevation ascents/descents -- which in turn can make you a stronger (and faster) runner. Besides, variety is the spice of life, right?
Trail racing (and training for them) can make you mentally unbreakable. If you’ve been running and racing for a while now, you know how important it is to be mentally tough. In fact, I’d wager that having sound mental fitness is as important, if not more, than getting yourself into fantastic physical shape. When you’re training for a trail race, you’ll probably need to spend more time on your feet than you usually would, as well as climbing and descending more hills than you usually do, and this can be tough, both physically and mentally. I’ve spent many days on trails where I wonder what I’m doing -- why am I running 15+ minute miles when I could easily run sub-8-minute miles on roads -- but then I remember how the “mental callusing” I’m doing in training will be helpful come race day. Trail running can be definitively harder than roads running/racing, yet the mental fortitude you’ll develop from racing trails can pay off in all areas of your life: running and otherwise. Remember: getting outside your comfort zone is a great thing.
It’ll keep you accountable and might make you more willing to put in the work. I know many people who swear by having a race on their calendar if for no other reason than it makes them continue to put in the training week after week, month after month. After a while, though, it makes sense that you’ll begin to maintain some base fitness, and you might not necessarily have to work as hard to “stay in shape” or be able to complete the distance. If you’re planning to run a trail race, though, and you’re used to running and racing roads, you’ll likely find that you’ll need to work a little harder and put forth a little more effort -- in the form of getting strong on climbs, on figuring out ways to be nimble and fast on the downhills, or learning how to hike expeditiously -- just to get or stay in shape. I know many runners often aspire to “run more hills,” for example, but in the absence of having a hilly trail race on the calendar, this goal falls to the wayside. Putting a trail race on your calendar -- after paying for it and registering, of course -- may make you more inclined to properly train for it, even in inclement weather or when it’s “inconvenient” to you to do so, if for no other reason than you not wanting to waste your hard-earned money.
The best reason: trail races are fun! As I mentioned earlier, I’m completely biased in my opinion that running is the best sport out there, and even if you’re used to just running and racing on roads, I bet you’ll find that the race-day atmosphere at trail races is still as energizing, exciting, and fantastic as what you’re used to. Sure, trail races are sometimes a little more “chill” compared to road races, and you may not run as fast as you would if you were on flat pavement, but there’s still something so gratifying and exhilarating about pinning on a bib and trying your best to run as fast as possible, even over rocky terrain, upturned rocks, exposed roots, or through water. Perhaps a better question to ask yourself: why not sign-up for a trail race?! What have you got to lose?! Provided you put in the training, remain injury-free, and show-up healthy and ready to rock, you may very well surprise yourself at how much fun you have.
As you’re planning your 2017 season, seriously give trail racing a shot. Fortunately for you, as your research will reveal, there are distances available for everyone: anything from a 5k all the way up to (and beyond) 100-milers or multi-day races. Who knows? Maybe even after one season of training for a trail race and then running your event, perhaps you’ll even migrate over to trail racing for the foreseeable future. Let me assure you: it’s a good place to be.
Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is a husband, entrepreneur and ultramarathon distance runner. Aside from those 3 things, he spends most of his time on runnerclick.com, runners101.com, monicashealthmag.com & nicershoes.com and he has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.