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How to plan your 2019 trail year

A step by step guide for planning trail races and adventures

It’s dark and cold outside. You can’t stop daydreaming about sunny single track trails. Now is the time of year when runners think about their goals and start planning for 2019. Following a systematic procedure can help runners ensure they are choosing races and adventures that make sense for them. Whether you are an FKT veteran, or brand new to the trail running scene, consider these steps when planning your year on the trails: 

Step 1: Know your reasons

For each race, adventure, or running goal, ask yourself why. Is it to get a personal best? Try a new distance? Challenge yourself on a course? Hang out with friends at the finish line? The reason doesn’t matter as much as being aware of your ‘why.’ When you know your ‘why’ you’ll be more likely to stick to your goals when other temptations come in the way. When looking at race ideas, if it’s not a “heck yes” it’s a “no.”

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Step 2: Reflect and zoom

Once you know your purpose, reflect on your previous running goals and experiences. Then zoom out and look at the big picture. To start, ask yourself these questions: What have your running goals been in the past? Have you accomplished them? What have you learned? Have you made new goals? How do these goals related to your long term running happiness? 

Step 3: Pick two main events

A wise human once said, “You can do it all, but not all at once.” Focusing on two main races, adventures, or events can help structure your year. Once you decide on your “A” races, then you can decide which smaller races to sign up for to help you prepare for the main event. For example, signing up for the Finlayson Arm 28K September 8, 2019 is a great goal. But running your first 50K race the day before would be silly. Sign up for smaller races that simulate a goal race throughout the year. 

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Step 4: Connect with those who have experience

In trail running, experience is everything. Connecting with others about a race or adventure idea will help you decide whether the event aligns with your goals. Trail running groups or coaches are also great resources to get information on particular races or events. Even reading race reports from online blogs can give runners a sense if the race is right for them.

Step 5: Work backwards

Get your calendar out and start planning each month. Start with the main goal, and work backwards from there. Some runners find it helpful to chunk the year into three month sections, to periodize a training schedule. Use a pencil, as this calendar is likely to be an ongoing work in progress.

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Step 6: Recruit your squad

Tell your trail running friends  about potential plans. Invite and include those you love spending time in the forest with. Sharing the experiences with like-minded people can make training, racing, and finish lines more fun. Better yet, get in touch with your local trail running club.

Photo: Katie Mills

Step 7: Take action

Trail running is really fun, but consistent training isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Stay focused and do the work. This may mean hiring a coach or writing out your own training plan. Remember your why, stay focused, and connect with the trail running community. These steps could make 2019 could be the best year ever.