Why I’m Racing a 10k Trail Race (and why you should too!)

By Team RunRun Coach Keith Laverty

I’m racing the Saturnalia 10k in Olympia, WA this December, and I think you should join me, or at least join me in racing some sub-ultra distance trail races! Why should you join me? The quick answer: Racing a 10k trail race is for anyone and everyone (especially the Saturnalia race!) Regardless of experience level or ability, the 10k distance can serve as a great goal for anyone interested in running on trails. And better yet: The Saturnalia 10k event has no cut-offs and offers a supportive community of runners that celebrates each and every runner who shows up to the start line.

Showing the course for the Saturnalia 10k as an example of why it's awesome to run a 10k trail race
The Saturnalia 10k, a TRR favorite, runs through the heart of Squaxin Park in Olympia, WA where runners get all kinds of fun and fast trail challenges!

But more generally, let’s talk about who should consider racing a 10k trail race and what they’ll get out of it. 

I think that racing trail 10k events can be great for  someone who is experienced on the roads but wants to dip their toes into the waters (and mud!) of trail events.  The 10k distance is a great introductory distance to trail running  that doesn’t require a huge amount of training volume to prepare for relative to an ultra. Yet  like many elements of training for road racing, a trail 10k will still be a challenge in terms of racing  intensity and the training that goes into it. You’re going to still be  incorporating more quality work such as tempo runs, hill workouts and speedwork into your 10k trail racing preparations. 

For someone completely new to running, the 10k serves as a great first distance to try out and work toward at the end of a training block. ALERT: Don’t be intimidated by the hills!  It is 100% OKAY to walk or hike in trail events, regardless of the distance. The Saturnalia course  and many other shorter trail events still pack in some punchy, steep trails and staircases, but they’re relatively short. I recommend practicing being an efficient hiker and training  on some uphills ahead of time. I also think that being a strong hiker on the trails  is something to be embraced as part of the trail event running experience! Plus, in many cases hiking can be more efficient than running.

For the seasoned ultrarunner or veteran athlete in trail running, the 10k is the perfect opportunity to develop as an all around runner. The 10k is great for developing speed, strength, and sharpening their leg turnover. Incorporating harder intensities into training, alongside a heavy dose of easy aerobic running, is crucial for any ultrarunning program. A focused 10k trail race can fit the bill beautifully and be an opportunity to improve on any  weaknesses early in a newer ultra running training build. With the faster clip, this is also a time to practice your footwork over any technical sections or navigating through the twists and turns. Time to open up your stride more and let it fly!

The 10k race can even be used as a quality workout in the middle of a training cycle. A 10k trail race is a way to keep training interesting and more motivating by getting the chance to run some new-to-you trails that are all conveniently marked for you! And with a distance like this, you can still easily carry on with the rest of the day, such as visiting with family for the holidays or sipping on a post-race coffee or hot chocolate.

Longer distance trail events like ultras certainly get their fair share of attention and are incredible challenges. But the sub-ultra distances should definitely not be overlooked! They  bring a ton of value to any athlete’s racing schedule and they pack a powerful training punch for any runner! See you on the trails! 

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Keith Laverty is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.