How to Prepare to Run a Marathon (or Ultra) Distance Trail Race

by | Sep 29, 2022 | Run, Training, Training "How To's"

Ready to step it up and run a distance outside of your usual trail-race comfort zone? We’ve got some expert advice

There are various big trail run events on the calendar over the coming months, starting with the K-Way MaxiRace Cape Winelands presented by Banhoek Chilli Oil on the first weekend of October. Much like Ultra Trail Cape Town and even Skyrun, there are various distances to choose from, providing runners of all fitness levels the opportunity to step it up and out of their comfort zone. You might not be training for a 100-miler, but here are some tips from Tarrin van Niekerk a well-respected coach who finished on the podium of the 45km route at last year’s Maxi Race. These are her words:

Ease into it
Start slow and give your body time to warm up in the run. Make sure you’ve studied the route and know what is coming in terms of early climbs as well as where the aid stations are. For the 45km route on the Maxi race, don’t attack the first two climbs, keep your pace easy until you reach the first aid station at the dam.

How To Prepare Yourself For A Longer Distance Trail Run
Tarrin Van Niekerk at the top of Du Toit’s Peak.

Power the flats
As mentioned in point one, knowing the profile and the route will go a long way in helping you prepare. This way you can make the most of the flat sections and run them hard. On the 45km route at Maxi race, there are some nice runnable sections between Bergriver Dam and Banhoek, that’s where you can make up time. Leave some legs for the last downhill. It is proper steep, but not that technical and super fun. After the last climb, you can gun it to the finish.

Hit and run
Don’t waste time at aid stations, as tempting as this might be. Fill up with water and carbohydrate drinks, grab whatever snacks you’ll need and keep moving — momentum is a big thing and you don’t want to lose it…

Fuel properly throughout the run
That being said, don’t skimp on nutrition and hydration. Make sure you take in enough water and food throughout the race. For me, especially on longer run distances, the key is to eat and drink small amounts, often. Taking regular sips will keep you topped up and prevent a sloshing tummy during running, which can cause GI distress. A good tip is to eat on the climbs when you’re moving slower anyway. Taking a gel or eating something small every 30 minutes works great on marathons and longer distances.

Smile and wave
Be nice to the volunteers and route marshals. Give them a big smile and thank them as you pass through aid stations or run past. They’re all volunteering their time, and spending long hours out in the elements manning aid stations and making sure your race is amazing.

Inspired to get out there onto the trails and tackle your first event? Read more here.

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