Allegra June 26

Confession: I secretly prefer trail racing

I ran my first trail race with the 5 Peaks race series back in the spring of 2014. Afterwards, I immediately signed up for the next four races.

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Where road racing is governed by pace, trail racing is dependent on so many factors that pacing kind of goes out the window. Each race is different depending on the hills, the weather, the single track and congestion on the course. While this might seem daunting, I find it completely freeing.

Accessing the trails

I run on the road pretty much all winter and my training with my coach is exclusively for road racing. But when the summer hits, it’s time to hit the trails. Of course, provincial parks have extraordinary trail systems, but you don’t have to venture too far to get into nature. The longest I drove to a race last year was about an hour from Toronto. In some cases, I was running along cliffs and climbing the escarpment at Rattlesnake Point. At other times, I was running alongside a lake and even through deep water in a marsh.

I regularly take part in the 5 Peaks series and one of the things I love best about the race series is its focus on family. People come with their kids not just to watch, but to race too. Last year, I brought my mum who not only ran her first trail race, but her first race ever. When the road racing community can be a bit tech-focused and yes, competitive, the folks who run trails are a different crowd. I find them extremely welcoming to newbies, easygoing and supportive.

Coming up this summer

So I’m sticking to the trails. This summer, I’m also participating in a series called “Venture off the Beaten Path” presented by Toronto club RunTOBeer. The premise of this group is as simple as “run in Toronto, then drink a beer.” For this series throughout the summer we’re exploring the trail system in Toronto every other Tuesday night The events are held throughout the summer and then finish at a local bar where all runners get their first beer for free. I love starting on a busy street and then with one little turn, finding myself on a lush trail with the sounds of the city fading away.

Last week, I wrote about rediscovering my natural pace when I ditched my watch. Trail racing is the ultimate way to ditch the watch and run by feel and run through the woods for the joy of it. I’m putting that into play again this August when I’ll take on my longest trail race yet: the Squamish 23K. I’ve started my training plan which includes a lot of strength training, hills, and yes, running without headphones. While it’s impossible to know what my pace will be, I’ve heard from a past racer that finishing in under three hours is a reasonable goal. Here’s to summer training!


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