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Training for distance vs. time on the trails

Check out this method of calculating your training on varied terrain

“To each their own,” seems to be one of the only universal training principles in trail running. The debate over whether trail runners should train by distance or time on feet is no different. It remains one of the most controversial topics in the trail running community (with opinions about racing with a handheld or pack and the Hardrock lottery coming in at a close second and third). But taking into account elevation for each run can merge the divide of whether distance or time is the way to train.

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Kerry Ward running on the Wonderland Trail

Ultra-trail runner and lawyer Stephanie Case is no stranger to debates. She recently tweeted her go-to formula for how she trains on technical and varied terrain, especially when elevation and climbing are to account for. Case considers both distance and time, depending on the elevation gain of the route. Following her tweet, you could almost sense the sigh of relief sweeping over the trail running community.

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Athlete trail running at Lac De Chéserys, with the Mont Blanc in the background. Photo: Getty Images

“It’s a very unscientific, rough guide I’ve been using over the years, but it’s worked for me,” explains Case. Although everyone is unique, and the universal trail running principles still apply, Case’s tweet can help many trail runners plan their runs and calculate training, especially on technical and mountainous trails.

Case adds a kilometre to her run for each 100 metres she gains in elevation. So next time you’re wondering why that trail run felt so hard, and it was “only” 5K in distance, consider Case’s formula. Trail running is not road running, and the effort it takes for distances will vary depending on the surface and conditions.

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