Goal for 2018: Running Your First Trail Race

Are you ready to hit the ground running in 2018 as you prepare for your first trail race? We hope so, and to help you in the process, consider the following tips so that your finish line experience has you planning subsequent goals.

Select the race.
Look for a race based on location, time of year, course profile, and terrain. Decide whether you want to stay local, or travel out of state and then, once you select your race distance, research race calendars to find a date that works into your schedule.

The Loon Mountain Race in Lincoln, NH. Photo by Scott Mason.

Research the race.
Once you identify the event, visit the race website and look for a description of the course and hopefully an accompanying profile, which provides the elevation changes for the race route. For your first trail race, you might want to stick to a course which mirrors your training. If you have run trails that are groomed, flat, and well-maintained, select a course with the same features. If gnarly, rocky, single-track with steep ascents and descents have been in your training repertoire, you’ll do fine on this type of race course.

Set a realistic goal.
Taking into consideration the course and your training leading up to the race, set a goal. This goal could include a set finish time, or could be to just finish feeling strong. Keep in mind that you may have to reevaluate your time goal prior to race day based on your training, and on race day, external factors such as weather may affect your predicted finish time.

Set a realistic goal for your first trail race.

Chart your training.
Review the quantity and quality of your training and set a plan. If your goal time is two hours for a half marathon, do several long efforts between 1 hour 30 minutes and 2 or more hours. Incorporating some walking during your “run” is suggested especially if you have never run longer than one hour at one time. Be sure to ramp up your mileage and time on your legs slowly. Cross training, be it strength and core work, swimming, pool running, or cycling, is a good addition to your program. Recovery is an important and integral piece of your training plan.

Stick with a routine.
When choosing your refreshments, footwear, and apparel for your race, stick with what works in your training. If you have a specific energy product, take this with you for race day and don’t try something you are unfamiliar with. Same goes for apparel and footwear. It is best to wear something you are comfortable wearing. Remember to dress for the conditions – what they are, and what they may become.

Don’t forget to enjoy the scenery while you’re out there!

Get support and guidance.
The support of friends and family is key to your motivation and success. If you can enlist a coach or mentor to help keep you on your training plan, you will have an increased probability of success reaching your goal.

Visit our trail race only Event Calendar and use the advanced search criteria to find a trail race near you.