Trail running is a world away from road running and although a challenge, it can be a lot of fun. We give you our top 5 tips for surviving your first trail race so that you can have the best time and get to the finish line in one piece!
1. Do hill training
One of the main differences between road running and trail running is that trail races tend to have a lot more elevation gain which means lots of running up and down steep hills. Rather than plodding round a flat course on smooth tarmac, you will need to be able to navigate down steep, stony tracks and get yourself up tough ascents. Doing lots of hill training will really increase your chances of making it to the finish and will condition both your cardiovascular fitness and your muscle strength so that the hills don't completely incapacitate you.
2. Don't skip leg day
Trail running is much tougher on the legs than road running due to both the elevation but also the difficult terrain. Your legs will have to work much harder to keep you stable and you will need a lot of muscular strength to help you up the hills and to jump over tree roots and duck under low branches.
Make sure you incorporate lots of strength and conditioning into your training so that not only your legs but also your back and core are strong enough to handle the strain. Do plenty of squats and deadlifts as these will target those areas but make sure you are doing endurance weight training which means light weights, high reps, instead of training for pure strength which is heavy weights and low reps.
3. Wear the right shoes
Trail running can feature challenging terrain from long grass to loose gravel to deep mud. You will need proper trail shoes which have aggressive traction and grip so that you don't slip, fall and injure yourself.
It's also worth checking for trail shoes which incorporate a rock plate to the bottom as this will protect your feet when you inevitably step on rocks and stones and will prevent injuries to your feet.
Finally, a pair of shoes that are waterproof is a big bonus but not a necessity. Chances are you will have to run through mud and especially in winter you might even need to wade through water which will make you very cold so waterproof shoes will prevent cold, painful feet.
4. Check the weather
You are far more exposed to the elements when trail running and they will affect you more, so make sure you keep an eye on the forecast so that you can be prepared. Wear plenty of sun cream if it's going to be hot and take wet weather gear if it's going to rain. The last thing you want is a DNF because of being ill-prepared for the weather!
5. Have fun and don't expect a good finish time
It's important to remember why we do trail running – to have fun! Those who run road races tend to compete purely for speed whereas trail running is more of a challenge for ourselves and to push our own limits. Most trail runs will be significantly more difficult than a traditional road race and it's highly unlikely that you'll achieve a distance PB. There may well be sections that are impossible to run and you will be forced to walk in order not to fall, or because a hill is just that steep. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and don't go into it expecting to achieve your best time ever or even trying to be overly competitive as you will only end up disappointed.
From forgetting something to going the wrong way, we've all been there. Sundried asked our ambassadors "what is the dumbest thing you've ever done at a race?" and these were their answers! Have you ever made any of these racing mistakes?
Helene Wright - Triathlete
I was once on the bike leg of a duathlon and knew I was second lady so was chasing down the leader. I saw a cyclist in the distance so pushed on to catch them. As I got closer I soon came to realise they weren't wearing a number so they weren't even in my race... But worse still I'd followed them off course and down to the bottom of a hill! Fortunately, after getting back into the race, I hadn't lost a place but didn't track down the leader in time to win first place.
John Wood - Team GB Triathlete and Coach
A client of mine raced Cardiff Triathlon as part of training and forgot his wetsuit.
Dominic Garnham - Triathlete
I trained hard throughout all of last winter for a race early this year. I felt very confident and very excited for the race and I was in the best shape I've ever been. I turned up to sign in at registration on the day only to find I had forgotten to actually enter the race!
Nick Lower - Celebrity Trainer
I fractured my ankle 7 miles into ‘Man v Mountain’ (a 20 mile race up and down Mount Snowdon). I stupidly just strapped it up and completed it!
Alice Tourell North - Team GB Triathlete
At a recent race I forgot to put my race belt on! I had the best swim I’ve had this season, flew into T1, got to my bike... and then had to stand there for over 3 minutes whilst the race officials tried to find my husband who had the race belt in my bag. Total nightmare!
Steve Sayer - Triathlete and Coach
My swim hat pinged off and I lost my goggles at Ironman 70.3 Wimbleball, but I had the fastest swim stroke ever!
Martin Owen - Team GB Triathlete
I had an issue until recently of not being able to pedal and drink at the same time. I used to have to coast very slowly to drink. In a standard distance Duathlon, my bottle wouldn’t go back into the holder and it dropped out on the first lap. 35 more miles on 1 gel and no water...not nice!
Anne Iarchy - Personal Trainer
I hadn't ridden my bike for a couple of years due to injury. I had entered a triathlon last year, hoping I would have the time to get back on beforehand. Unfortunately that didn't happen. As I got onto the bike leg, I had totally forgotten how to change the gears on the bike. I managed to take them up, but not down. So when pedalling into the wind, it was really hard work. Thankfully I managed to figure something out on the 3rd lap!
Stephen is an older athlete who competed in the second ever running of the London marathon. He talks to Sundried about all things running.
Have you always been into sport?
No! At school I was the kid who hid when it came to PE. I think I am what you call a late bloomer.
What made you decide to enter the world of distance running?
I was into rock climbing when I was in 6th form and beyond. I then watched the 1st ever London Marathon on TV and thought ‘yep, that looks cool, I might have a go at that’! Never having run before, I got an entry and completed the 2nd running of the event.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
I now compete as a V60 athlete. I won my category in the 2018 Eden Project Marathon after 2nd places the previous 2 years in the half marathon. It is a really well organised event and uses small lanes and trails as well as a superb finish right by the Eden domes. I have many V60 1st places but I feel this one was hard won.
And your proudest achievement?
After a serious illness and time in hospital back in 2009, my 2 sons and I completed a non- stop Lands End to John o’ Groats cycle relay. The three of us completed this in 68 hours 15 mins with my wife doing all the support driving. We raised a lot of money for Cancer Campaign in Suffolk.
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
Not one of my longest races, but I did the Motatapu Trail Marathon in New Zealand a couple of years ago. I had done it before and wanted to get on the podium in my category. I felt ‘a bit off’ before the race and at the highest point in the race with 10 miles still to go, I got the worst cramp I have ever had. A helicopter that had landed to evacuate an MTB competitor waited to see if I too needed a lift! I don’t do giving up so I did get to the end under my own steam but the lesson is, if you feel unwell leave the heroics to another day.
How do you overcome setbacks?
Setbacks make the successes all the sweeter.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
When I reached V55 I based my performance (or lack of) on what I was doing when I was 28. A coach friend of mine gave me the simple advice to start V55 as a ‘new career’ - forget all PBs before that. Simple yes, but it got me into the right place mentally.
What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?
My major goals for 2019 are almost completed including the Keswick Mountain Festival Ultra Trail Race and the International Snowdon Race. It is now back to cycling for my major 2020 goal which is the Tour Aotearoa in February. Luckily it is in New Zealand so it is summer there!
Who do you take your inspiration from?
Anyone who overcomes adversity to compete or simply enjoys taking part in sport.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I first became aware of Sundried when they supported the Clacton Half Marathon, shortly after their launch. I liked the idea of sustainable sports kit and the use of coffee grounds had me hooked. I own several of the original tops which just last and perform so well. I have now ordered a full set of Cadence cycling kit and can’t wait to put it through its paces.
Don't know the difference between aquathlon and swimrun? Chances are you've heard of triathlon, but these days multi sport is way more than just the typical swim - bike - run format. We explore some of the newer multi sports as well as the classics that are enjoying a revival.
Let's start with the most popular multi-sport du jour. The Brownlee brothers' performance at the 2012 London Olympics has been followed by a rise in popularity of triathletes like Lucy Charles who are supported by global brands such as Red Bull and are growing a notable fan-base thanks to Instagram. This has led to triathlon becoming more popular than ever and the trend shows no signs of stopping just yet.
Swimming, cycling, running
Distance Swim Bike Run Super Sprint 400 m
Sprint 750 m
Olympic (Standard) 1.5 km
Ironman 70.3 (Half Ironman) 1.9 km
ITU-Middle Distance 3.0 km
Ironman 140.6 (Full Ironman) 3.9 km
ITU-Long Distance 4.0 km
How it works
Triathlon follows a simple swim - bike - run format with transition areas between each discipline. As a triathlete, you will start with the swim which can either be indoors in a swimming pool or outdoors in open water. Open water swims are more popular for most triathlons although some races aimed at beginners will feature a shorter pool swim.
Once you've completed your swim, you run to a transition area where you take off your wetsuit (if you wore one) and change into your bike shoes. You then head off out on your bike for the bike section.
Once finished on the bike, you come back to transition to rack your bike, put on your running shoes, and head off out for the run.
Different triathlon races offer a variety of different course types, from open roads to closed circuits and open water swims in the sea, ocean, rivers, or lakes. If you're really into this sport, you may end up investing in a specialist triathlon bike and all sorts of other specialist kit. For more detailed information about triathlon racing, read our triathlon guide.
As all triathlon races are governed by the ITU (International Triathlon Union), all triathlon races will be fairly uniform and as a racer you will have to stick to rigid guidelines and rules. You will also find the distances always stick closely to those outlined, although some races may have slightly longer or shorter distances due to course design; it will always be within 10% of the prescribed limit though.
For those looking for something a little more rugged, cross triathlon takes triathlon off-road and into the wilderness.
Open water swimming, mountain biking, trail running
Typically a 1km swim, 20-30km mountain bike, and 6-10km trail run but distances can vary from race to race.
How it works
Cross triathlon follows the same format as traditional triathlon but it is all done 'off-road'. The swim is always does in open water such as in a lake or in the ocean, the bike is done on a mountain bike, and the run is a trail run. The idea first started in Hawaii, the spiritual home of triathlon, and has since established itself as a major multi sport with the Xterra Championships being the Holy Grail for cross triathletes.
The courses tend to be much more technical and rugged than that of traditional triathlon and the cycle stage requires more care and skill rather than pure speed. Due to the fact that the bike stage could involve severe hills and navigating trees, rocks and other hazards, comparing times between different races can be tricky and unreliable.
Duathlon is triathlon's close relative, simply eliminating the swim from the popular multi sport racing format. Perfect for those who can't or don't want to swim but also popular among triathletes in the winter season, duathlon can be a very competitive and fast sport.
Super sprint distance - 2.5km run, 10km bike, 2.5km run
Sprint distance - 5km run, 20km bike, 2.5km run
Standard (Olympic) distance - 10km run, 40km bike, 5km run
Middle distance - 10km run, 60km bike, 10km run
Long distance - 10km run, 150km bike, 30km run
How it works
A duathlon follows a run - bike - run format, eliminating the swim from standard triathlon format. Due to the fact most athletes' strongest disciplines are the bike and run sections, duathlon can be extremely competitive and fast.
Duathlon follows the same format as triathlon in that there is a transition between each discipline. You will start with your first run before heading to the transition area to grab your bike and helmet and head out on the bike section. Once that's done, you head back to transition to change into your running shoes and sprint off for your final run.
Duathlon is a very popular sport among triathletes during the winter season when swimming – especially in open water – is impractical. Many triathletes will stay fit and keep their racing strategy strong by competing in autumn and winter duathlon races. Duathlon is also perfect for anyone interested in doing multi sport but who can't or doesn't want to swim. Also, for people looking to dip their toe into multi sport (metaphorically speaking) but who aren't ready to commit to swimming lessons, wetsuits, and the complexities of triathlon just yet.
Aquathlon is another of triathlon's close relatives, this time eliminating the bike section from the popular multi sport format. Less equipment to worry about and perfect for those who don't like cycling, aquathlon is rising in popularity as of late.
Warm water aquathlon (water temperature above 22 degrees Celsius)
2.5km run - 1km swim - 2.5km run
Cold water aquathlon (water temperature below 22 degrees Celsius)
1km swim - 5km run
Long Course aquathlon
2km swim - 10km run
Each country, federation, and even individual race may have its own distance regulation as water temperature can vary so drastically from country to country.
How it works
Transporting a bike to a race, especially abroad, can be logistically difficult. As can organising a race with a bike section, especially if it has to be done on roads open to traffic. Eliminating the bike section of a triathlon – creating the aquathlon – became popular a few decades ago after race organisers and athletes alike realised how much simpler it would be just to have the run and swim portions of the race. Not only this, some people simply don't get on with cycling but still want to enjoy multi sport, so for them aquathlon is the perfect race.
In an aquathlon, it can be either a run - swim - run format or just a swim followed by a run. In general, aquathlon follows the longer distances while modern biathlon is shorter distances. Biathle, which is also swimming and running, is just for training purposes for those who compete in pentathlon.
For those who enjoy swimming and running but want more of a challenge or outdoor adventure, swimrun is the perfect choice. Put simply, swimrun is like aquathlon on steroids.
Open water swimming, trail running
Swimrun has no set distance standard and each race distance varies
How it works
There are several differences between swimrun and its close relative aquathlon. Where aquathlon is like triathlon in that there is a transition area, swimrun differs as there is no stopping in between stages; participants swim in their running shoes and run in their wetsuit.
In triathlon and aquathlon you're not allowed buoyancy aids but in swimrun you're allowed hand paddles and pull buoys because of the drag created by swimming in shoes.
Another difference is that aquathlon is just one swim and one run whereas swimrun could involve several stages, with a minimum of 2 swims and 2 runs. For example, the Breca Swimrun Buttermere is 17 alternating runs and swims.
The final difference is that an aquathlon often takes place in a pool whereas swimrun is always outdoors in open water and on rugged trails. Swimrun is usually done in pairs for safety reasons and for many is considered more of an adventure than purely a race.
Biathle (Modern Biathlon)
Biathle or Modern biathlon is a sub-sport of modern pentathlon invented to create opportunities for training the run and swim parts of pentathlon in real race conditions. It is a sport in its own right. It bears close resemblance to aquathlon which also contains swimming and running but which comes from triathlon sport.
Usually 200m and 3km run but distances can vary from race to race.
How it works
The race always features a mass start run which then goes into a transition area, much like duathlon. Participants must take off their shoes and socks (unlike in swimrun) and then move onto the swim. For the swim, athletes are allowed to use any stroke (unlike triathlon which forbids backstroke in pool swims). Then comes another transition back to running and then to the finish line.
This sport is not to be confused with biathlon which is cross country skiing and rifle shooting and is a winter Olympic sport.
Aquabike is a less popular multi sport that eliminates the run from the swim - bike - run triathlon format. Races are usually undertaken as part of a full triathlon with the participants omitting the run section of the race and just receiving a result for their swim and bike.
Super sprint 400m swim, 10k bike
Sprint 750m swim, 20k bike
Standard 1500m swim, 40k bike
Middle 1.9km swim, 90km bike
Full 3.9km swim, 191km bike
Distances vary but usually follow the same distances as a triathlon with the run omitted.
How it works
Aquabike is competed in the same way as a triathlon, simply with the run eliminated. Aquabike is perfect for triathletes who may be injured and therefore cannot run or simply for anyone who likes the idea of multi sport but doesn't like running.
Quadrathlon is for those who want a little more from their multi sport experience. It is the same as triathlon but with the addition of a kayaking section.
Swimming, cycling, kayaking, running
Sprint Distance Middle Distance Long Distance Swim 750 m 1.5 km 4 km Cycle 20 km 40 km 100 km Kayak 4 km 8 km 20 km Run 5 km 10 km 21 km
How it works
For a quadrathlon race, the individual disciplines can be done in any order however it usually follows a swim - bike - kayak - run format. Quadrathlon generally follows the same rules and format of a triathlon but with the addition of a kayaking element.
Other Multi Sport Races
Sundried is a triathlon specialist and so our passion is for multi sport races related to triathlon. Of course, there are many other types of multi sport such as pentathlon, heptathlon etc but those are track and field sports rather than related to our speciality.
Adventure racing is gaining popularity among active people as a new way of testing yourself over multiple disciplines and terrains. We take a look at exactly what adventure racing is and why it's something you should try.
What is adventure racing?
Adventure racing is where outdoor sports meets orienteering.
Adventure racing is a multi-discipline sport which often takes the form of running, cycling, and kayaking however it can also involve other outdoor adventure sports such as horse riding, skiing, abseiling, white water rafting, and climbing.
Adventure racing can be done solo in some instances but is usually done as a team and involves not only the physical aspect but also the competitive aspect of having to navigate an unmarked wilderness route while searching for checkpoints. Races can last anywhere from 2 hours to 2 weeks depending upon the type of event.
What are the rules?
The biggest and most obvious rule is that you are not allowed to utilise any form of motorised travel, so no cars or motorbikes. If you get stuck and need to be picked up, that's your race over. Another rule in team adventure racing is that the team must stay together at all times, usually within 50m of one another. For example, if you spot a checkpoint but your teammates are lagging behind, you can't sprint off to go and get it, you must wait for your team. This is the heart of the adventure racing ethos.
Teams are not allowed any outside assistance, however it is actively encouraged to assist other teams if you see them struggling or in obvious danger. Finally, you must carry all your gear yourself and be fully self-sufficient for the entirety of the race.
Who can do adventure racing? Adventure racing for beginners
Anyone can have a go at adventure racing! If you have a love of the outdoors and want to explore, then adventure racing is for you. You don't need to be proficient at reading a map but you will need to navigate for yourself during the race. You do need to have a love of trying something new and getting out there but you don't necessarily need to be super fit and athletic to manage it.
Many event organisers partner up with bike and kayak hire companies so you don't even need to have your own mountain bike or paddle boat to take part. You can hire the equipment you need and pick up and drop back off at the event location.
Why do adventure racing?
If you have already tried your hand at sports like triathlon, trail running, mountain biking, or orienteering, you would love the challenge that adventure racing brings. If you feel uninspired by your surroundings, seek adventure, or just want an awesome story to tell in the office on Monday morning, then adventure racing is for you.
Adventure racing will take you to some of the most beautiful places in the world and is a great way to get outdoors into nature and help you make the most of your time there. It will develop your team-work skills as well as essential survival skills such as map-reading and wilderness navigation. Not only this, the feeling of accomplishment is like no other and you are sure to have a ton of fun!
Where to begin with adventure racing – next steps
Once you've decided that adventure racing sounds like an awesome day out, it's time to sign up for a race and do some training! Some of the best events in the UK are organised by Questars who host events in areas of outstanding natural beauty such as the Chilterns and the New Forest. There are also plenty of awesome adventure racing events in the US.
In order to train for an adventure race, you will want to make sure your fitness is at a good level and that you can run and bike for extended periods of time. Not only this, you will need to make sure you are competent carrying a heavy load as you need to carry all your own equipment and it would help to have some navigation skills – although not completely essential as many first-timers just get stuck in and see what happens.
So why not sign up for a race and get out there? It could be the best thing you ever do!