Trail races are a popular choice for runners who may feel burned out on time goals or just want a more picturesque race atmosphere. But if you live in an urban area with no technical trails to speak of, you may be wondering how to train efficiently for a race. Here are four ways to get trail-ready on your usual roads. 

Get rid of any pace goals

You’re going to be slower on trails than you are on the roads, and it may be harder to stay consistent. Between altitude and elevation changes and trip hazards like roots and rocks, there’s really no getting around it. If you go to a trail race expecting to match or best your road paces, prepare yourself for an ego check. Instead, focus on your strength, endurance and agility. 

Practice carrying nutrition and hydration

If you’ve already trained for a marathon or live in a warm climate, this might be familiar to you. You’ll want ample pockets for snacks, plus a pocket bottle or hydration belt. For longer distances, a hydration backpack or vest will be necessary. Train while wearing your loaded-up gear so you can identify any discomfort and adjust before race day. 

Run with a headlamp or flashlight

If your trail race is a marathon or longer, there’s a good chance you’ll be running into the night. In this case, you’ll need a light to find your route and spot any animals or trip hazards. Prepare for your race by training with your light before sunrise or after sunset at home. 

Buy proper trail shoes and break them in

You’ll need to race in trail shoes, which provide grip and stability to help you stay upright. As with any shoes, you’ll want to make sure they fit well and break them in before spending hours with them on your feet. Try them for a few road runs before your race. Many city parks also have crushed gravel trails that you can use to see how they feel on uneven terrain.

While trail running is a world of its own in many ways, you can have a successful race day in nature with a little preparation and practice at home.