Learn to run by effort, not distance
Some of us runners like to calculate things. We like splits, our average mile pace and measurements ...
Illustration by Jeremy Duncan
Some of us runners like to calculate things. We like splits, our average mile pace and measurements down to the fraction of a mile. We are always trying to outdo ourselves and notch another accomplishment on our training totem poles.
While these numbers can be excellent tools for measuring progress, tracking and quantifying them becomes elusive on trails with varying terrain and elevation. This can be a hard concept for a newly christened trail runner to choke down, especially if you come from a training background based on pure mileage. Bulldoze past this obstacle by forgetting about distance, and base your run on effort.
Kirk Keller of Keller Coaching (www.kellercoaching.com), a USATF certified running coach in Three Forks, Montana, stresses his concept of "TRT" (total run time) to trail newbies. "It's important for runners to readjust expectations," says Keller. "You cannot transfer the same measurements to the trail that you would use around the 400-meter track or pavement."
To do this, Keller suggests dissecting the trail you intend to run. This involves understanding the type of terrain you might encounter—is it in the mountains, flat, packed trail or a heavily forested, hilly and root-covered trail? Then, determine your objective for that run—is it an easy recovery run, race-pace workout or long run? All these factors help determine your TRT, which will vary depending on the trail you choose. (See Transferring Your Road Miles to Trail Time).