Marathons are my running passion, but following close behind is trail running. Often it may seem counterproductive to mix the two, however for me, mixing up my long runs is something that works for me. Mainly because it gives me great joy.
To put it into context, if training for the road, my headspace is “distance at pace”. When training for the trails my headspace is usually “conquer the hills”. Changing that headspace is like a holiday for the soul.
In the context of this training block for the Boston Marathon 2017 during one of the hottest Sydney summers on record, my long runs were extremely tough mentally. My pace was OK, body holding up, all going to plan…. But mental fatigue was setting in. My savior was an invitation to join some running buddies who are training for a trail marathon to join them on their long run on the trails.
Despite the 4am wake up, the mental rejuvenation was almost instantaneous. It was tough, super hot and the course had over 500m of elevation, but the smile on my face wouldn’t budge. I was even running with airplane arms like a child at one point. Why? Well here are a few reasons I think that running on trails during marathon training is wonderful for the soul:
- It requires concentration. With the varied, uneven surfaces, you need to watch every single step. This is a great distraction from many of the sometimes negative thoughts that can enter my head on a long run.
- Trails slow you down. The nature of trails mean that you can’t run as fast as you would on the road, as a result the concept of pace isn’t top of mind. It’s a lovely change!
- You use your muscles differently. This is great for two reasons. Firstly, it’s like cross training whilst you get your run in and secondly, it can allow for active recovery. And when the usual aches and pains on the long run don’t manifest, that always makes me smile.
- You rarely run a trail alone…. And there’s nothing better than awesome running buddies.
Having said this, too much of a good thing can end up being not so good. So in the course of a 16 week schedule, I will hit the trails maybe once or twice. Also, I don’t believe in tempting fate and hitting the trails too close to event day due to the potential for clumsy injuries. Now that it’s 10 weeks out, my focus will be very much road focused to try and develop some fatigue resistance… if that’s even possible.
Until next time………