Training and Preparation

If you are new to trail running and feel like you don’t know much then you’ve got nothing to fear, you’ll soon find that the trail running community is very friendly and welcoming of first timers and they’ll be delighted to show you how to do it. Our races are not super competitive and you’ll feel welcome from the very start!

We’ve gathered a bunch of information below to make it easier to get into trail running and feel comfortable at the events. We look forward to seeing you soon:

Need some inspiration on where to train!? Check out our list HERE

The first port of call is to build up a bit of fitness by running (or walking) a couple of kilometres a week – solo, or with friends or a group; and the next contact to make is with some other runners (or groups) who’ll provide you with plenty of enthusiasm and encouragement to continue.

FREE Training programs

It is important to build your base fitness. If you are starting from a low base, DO NOT go out there and suddenly put in marathon efforts. You will only end up injured and not able to run. Better to start off slowly and build up. Here are a couple of suggested programs:

Base-fitness training outline (intermediate level)

1. Running Three Times a Week: Start 1 hour 30 minutes/week to 4 hours10min/week

  • Monday – 30 minutes on trail. Increase by 10 minutes every second week.
  • Wednesday – 20 minutes on flat trails. This run never increases.
  • Saturday – 40 minutes. Increase by 10% per week for three months at which time you are up to a 2 1/2 hour run.

2. Running Four Times a Week: Start 1 hour 40 minutes/week to 4 hours/week

  • Monday – 20 minutes. Increasing 10 minutes every second week.
  • Tuesday – 20 minutes. Never increases.
  • Thursday – 30 minutes. Never increases.
  • Saturday – 30 minutes adding 10% per week. In 3 months: 2 hours

To prepare for any race shorter than a 10km, plan a long run that lasts around 60 minutes. For a 10km or longer, work up to 90 minutes or more. Note: over training can be more harmful than under training. Never up your total distance for a week by more than 10%.

Trail Running Series – STRAVA CLUB

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE CLUB and you’ll be able to see what training others are doing, share kudos and gain motivation by being part of our community.

Road Running Vs Trail Running

Road running is good for cardio fitness but running trails and different surfaces (including stairs) will require you to adjust your rhythm. With road running, it is easy to get into a rhythm in terms of your cadence, your breathing and your mindset. While trail running, the pace and exertion levels change constantly, making it hard, initially, to find a rhythm. This makes some runners uncomfortable. There is a rhythm to be found in trail running, but it’s more about the natural rhythm of changing pace constantly and attuning to your environment.

You’ll use many more muscles overall when running trails. Your movements will be more varied as you constantly twist and turn, weaving between trees, stepping over roots and rocks, learning where and how to place your feet and shift your centre of gravity to remain upright while also maintaining pace. You’ll also improve your reaction times and co-ordination as your responses get used to the constantly changing terrain.

Don’t feel discouraged if you’re running slower than you do on road; that’s just the nature of trails. Obviously the more kilometres you get in your legs, the better – to a point.

Training assistance/groups

There are numerous running groups around Melbourne who are always happy to help out new (and experienced) runners and provide a sociable running community to be part of.

Rapid Ascent recommends:

Running Mums
Love The Run0438 335
Running Coach
Surf Coast Trail
Dandenong Trail Runners
Peninsula Runners

Where to train

There are plenty of easy, non-technical trails within reach of most households in suburban Melbourne. The banks of the Yarra, from inner city stretching all the way out to Warrandyte, are fertile ground for trail running (lucky those who live in the north east). Training destinations of varying quality include:

  • Yarra Bend and Yarra River – lots of trails on offer here from short loops to longer stretches linking some single track section all the way along the Yarra.
  • Westgate Park – short loops only
  • Banksia Park, Bulleen – short loops
  • Westerfolds Park, Templestowe – loops
  • Plenty Gorge Park – some great loops in a surprisingly beautiful pocket of nature up north
  • Yarra Flats, Bulleen – part of the Yarra Trail, can link to Westerfolds Park
  • Warrandyte State Park – riverside again, but pretty wild for an urban area
  • Lysterfield Park – some awesome single track, watch for mountain bikers
  • Mullum Mullum – those entrenched in the eastern suburbs around Ringwood can check out the odd trail around the Mullum Mullum Eastlink Tunnel – Hillcrest Reserve through to Yarran Dheran. Not all dirt, but trees at least. Ignore the sound of traffic.
  • Dandenong Valley Parklands – longer stuff in a corridor of green from Boronia Road to Wellington Road in the south, includes Jells Park, Nortons Park and Shepherds Bush among others – easy to get in some longer stuff here flat as it is.
  • Dandenong National Park including Sherbrooke Forest, Thousand Steps (busy) – a plethora of choices, long or short, hilly and all stunning
  • Smiths Gully/St Andrews/Kinglake area – an abundance of choices as the suburbs peter out and real bush begins.
  • The Bay Trails – anyone heading Brighton way and south can link up a few trails on the bay, with sections of dirt found hugging waterside from South Road all the way to Mordialloc – you can also then go inland along the river and hook into the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands. Okay, this is desperate trail running, but any dirt in a storm.
  • Mornington Peninsula National Park – plenty of options including the Two Bays Walking Trail, Mornington Peninsula; so good it has its own trail running race!
  • Arthurs Seat National Park – some hilly stuff, views and good loops everywhere. Part of the Two Bays Trail linking to Mornington National Park.
  • Langwarrin Flora and Fauna Reserve, near Frankston – longer loops
  • The Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve, near Frankston – heathland loops
  • Maribyrnong Valley Park – including Brimbank Park, Greenvale Reservoir and Horseshoe Bend Farm; lots of loops
  • You Yangs – lots of hills, plenty of longer trails
  • Cheetham Wetlands/Point Cook Coastal Park, Altona – flat but a few trails including those either side of Skeleton Creek and running north east behind Altona Meadows to Truganina and Doug Grant Reserves.
  • Williamstown – has a good trail from the main street west heading to Altona Coastal Park. You can link up and run (not all trail mind you) past Seaholme and into the Cheetham Wetlands area.

Trail Running Tips videos

Back in 2019 we made a series of videos to pass on some trail running tips to those who might be hitting the trails for the first time. There are some great pointers in these videos that are current now in 2024. Watch and learn (and laugh):

Video 1: Warm up and what to wear

Video 2: technical terrain, footwear and passing etiquette

Video 3: pre-race routine, uphill running and staying on track

Video 4: race nutrition, sand running and lights

Video 5: running at night and race salutes!

Have fun!