Trail running has become one of the biggest running events. There’s nothing quite like getting to compete in the beautiful great outdoors. As trail races have grown in popularity, sold-out races have become more common. However, if you’re hoping to hop on the bandwagon make sure to do your research. So how does road race timing vs trail race timing work?
Changes for Trail Racing
There are many differences between a road race and a trail race (for the runners and the organizers). Trail running has long been known for its laid back, enjoy the fresh air feel. With its increase in popularity, it’s seen a lot more competitive runners participating. Here’s a shortlist of ways trail racing differs from the typical 5K race.
The trail race vibe tends to be relaxed. The participants are there to run, but also to enjoy the scenery. That being said, it’s not a good idea to start running on auto-pilot on these races. Unlike road races, trails may fork in difference directions. It’s important for the trails to be clearly marked and for the runners to be vigilant about paying attention to their surroundings.
Pacing and goals.
Road runners are used to focusing on pace. Often, they are training for months in order to compete and time is a key factor. First time trail runners who are used to relying on their GPS to capture exact timing may become frustrated. The best thing to do, is to learn to run by feel instead of by mathematics.
Preparation for runners.
Training for a trail race is different than training for a road race. The trail will have various inclines and declines along the way. It will also lack a perfectly smooth running surface. There will be more twists and turns than a road race as well. This means there will be ebbs and flows — and that’s okay! Runners should prioritize maneuvering safely through the terrain over time.
Preparation for organizers.
Every race has several aid stations along the way with water, gatorade, and snacks. It’s part of taking care of participants, and ensuring their health and safety. Trail races are known for having less aid stations (it’s more difficult to place them strategically), but being stocked full of food and beverages. Knowing this can help race directors plan ahead and provide enough nourishment for the runners.
Critters and first aid.
Critters are part of trail running. Sometimes, big critters. In SpectaSport’s service area of PA and NJ, there have even been occasional sightings of bears near running trails and in campgrounds. Also, running in the woods, even in an organized race, is no different than hiking or mountain biking on backwoods trails. It’s a good idea to take some time to familiarize yourself with basic backwoods first aid and survival techniques just in case you get injured.