Like many other people, I transitioned into ultra trail running from several years running on the pavement. Training for road races often consists of structured plans that incorporate speed work, tempo runs, hill repeats, fartleks, etc. While these things can and do carry over into the ultrarunner’s training plan, one thing that is often overlooked is hiking.
I too was guilty of ignoring hiking almost entirely during my first couple years of running trail ultras. After all, I came to believe through my time training on the road that I had to run, even during my easy runs; hiking was a waste of a workout! As I have progressed over the last few years, I have realized how critical it is to effective ultra running. Here are some of the benefits I get from hiking:
- Ultra runners (especially those that run mountainous courses and longer distances) know that steep climbs and hiking go hand and hand. We all have also experienced the dreaded 3+ mile uphill grind that seems to go on forever. Incorporating hiking during your training helps master these scenarios. In addition to conditioning myself for the mental grind, many of my time improvements have come from becoming a better, faster hiker.
- Hiking is also great for injury prevention and rehabilitation. Whether or not you simply want to give the body a break from the pounding or you are just getting back into the swing of things from a prolonged injury, hiking is a great way to accomplish these things while also incorporating a productive training session.
- When we are running, we often forget to stop and enjoy the scenery. Hiking affords us the ability to take our time, look around, and take in the fresh air. I often spend this time with my family too, which is a great way to bond and expose them to the beauty of the outdoors. Hikers allow us to cherish one of the main reasons that cause most of us flee the roads and head for the trails.
So, whether you are new to ultra trail running or a veteran, take some time to take in the beauty around and don’t forget the hike it out!