Bored of pounding the pavements? I asked the lovely Hannah – one of the duo behind the Trailscape series – for tips on making the switch to Trail running.
Here is what Hannah had to say about tackling hills, mud and where to start when it comes to off-road running.
1. Don’t over think it
Trail running can seem daunting and we tend to build it up in our minds, predicting it will be ‘too hard’, ‘too hilly’ or ‘too slow’ – so much so in fact, that many people are stopped in their tracks and never reach the vital point of signing up! The reality is that trail running is some of the most beautiful running you will ever do and we wouldn’t want you to miss out on the opportunity.
The trail running philosophy is very different to a road race – less about time and competition, and more about comradery, teamwork and enjoyment. People will help you if you struggle, people stop to take photos and revel in the day, and share munchies along the way. So don’t over think it, just do it and we promise you will never look back.
Our first ever trail marathon was a bit like this. We didn’t know anything about the company or the terrain and signed up on a whim. It was a coastal marathon with over 5000ft of ascent and a total distance of nearly 30miles. Yes, we were daunted, yes we wondered if we could do it and on the day, yes, it was hard but did we regret it? Never….Now we (Hannah and her partner John) organise our own trail running events and can honestly say we have never looked back
2. Get prepared
The terrain for a trail race is very different. It is uneven underfoot, muddy at times and requires practice at getting your pace and footing. During training try to mix it up – at the very least run on the grass alongside the path or switch to fields in the local park. At every opportunity you can, get off the tarmac – this will prepare your feet and core stability.
3. Go slow and taper from there
The first half of your run should be slower than the second. This gives the body time to acclimatise and settle into that all important pace. John and I have very different running styles. John has the typical adrenalin-fuelled start and I don’t see him for dust but you can guarantee that by the second half as I catch him up he’s always complaining that he ‘started too quick’! In trail running slow and steady always wins the race!
4. Walk the hills, run the flat & downs
Someone told us this before our first trail race and it filled us full of confidence so we will repeat it here. There are always stages of a trail run that are impossible to run, either due to the steep incline or the mud. If you try to run these sections you will expend and waste a lot of energy without the gains in speed or distance covered. It’s not worth it – take these stages as a moment of recovery and conserve your energy for the points where you can fly.
5. Mind over matter
As most runners will tell you the points where you struggle in a race are near-on always psychological – the ‘I can’t do this’, ‘Not another hill!’, ‘If I feel like this now, what will I feel like later?’, ‘I’m not cut out for this’ and so on.
Listen to your body not your mind and you will go further. You can also try the strategy of breaking the race down into stages and then treating each stage as a mini but manageable goal. Try not to think too far ahead, moments of struggling or ‘the wall’ rarely last the whole race, they come and go but don’t stick around for too long. Focus on each individual moment and stop predicting what will happen next – you do not have the power to predict that you ‘won’t make it’, or ‘that there will be ‘more hills’, ‘ or that you will ‘come last’. Focus on the here and now, and let your body do the rest.
If you’re looking for your next trail challenge or want to try an off-road race in the New Year, then sign up for the next Trailscape Rail to Trail in Ashurst, Kent on 10 January 2015. With three distance: 10K, half marathon and full marathon, it’s the ideal way to brush off the cobwebs and kick-start running in 2015.
Click here for more details.
Read what Andrew McClelland – a newbie to trail running – thought of the Cuxton event.