the barefoot budget

unconventional grit for a mindful life

Training for a 30K Trail Run


header 30k

This time of year always leaves me feeling so blah – it’s cold and grey out, I won’t see my family again for months, and there’s not another paid holiday until May. More importantly, football is now sadly over and my Sundays feel empty and lost. Yoga Camp has been a great way to fill the void, but that will be ending next week. One of the Camp mantra’s the other day was “I believe.” That one hit me hard because I’m guilty of never believing in myself. I convince myself I will fail before I ever try something new, which is really prohibitive!

With the new year and mild temps here in the Southeastern US, I’ve been trying to get back into running. Running is a weird activity for me, because I wouldn’t say that I love it. I love the way it makes me feel afterwards, and I love the tangibility of measuring the endurance building in miles. Running on the road tends to depress me, but there’s something about running in the woods that gets me. It feels primal. Sun filtering through the trees, feet hitting the dirt, climbing up and over ridges, chasing nothing in particular, simply communing with nature – it makes me feel like a badass.

Last year I ran the very first race of my life – a 12K trail run in Pisgah National Forest. I had never run more than 3 miles before I trained for this race. All throughout training, I never truly believed I would be able to run the race. I ended up running a time I thought was unfathomable. Now, there’s also a 30K version of this race. I felt proud for running the 12K, but I couldn’t help and watch the 30K runners tricking in. That is so freaking awesome, I mused … immediately followed by the thought, I could never do that. Thinking of the “I believe” mantra the other day, I had to ask myself: Why the hell not?

So here’s to why the hell not. I’m going to try, no, I’m going to run that 30K this year. The race is called Cradle to the Grave and it benefits the Cradle of Forestry in America interpretive center in Pisgah National Forest, NC. I love this race for so many reasons. It benefits something I actually believe in and have experienced, not some vague idea like, “curing cancer,” sponsored by a mega-charity with questionable money management practices. It’s sponsored by Oskar Blues, one of my favorite breweries, and they hand out free beer after the race. The area is ridiculously gorgeous and the race traverses a variety of habitats. Also, you get to camp out the night before and meet other runners around the campfire.

30K = 18.6 miles, with about 2,000 feet of elevation change. Click through for my training plan!


30K Trail Run Training Program PDF

I’m going to explain this 30K trail run training plan in depth, because I had a lot of trouble finding anything for this length race on the internet. I hope this can be a helpful resource for others running a 15-20 miles trail race. (My format for the calendar was 100% inspired by YWA’s Yoga Camp calendar)

First, this 14-week program assumes that you have some stamina as a runner built up – that you have been running 10-12 miles a week for 3-4 weeks. 16 weeks is an appropriate amount of time to train for a 30K race; if this is your plan, I would recommend running 3-3-4 during week one, and 3-4-5 during week two. If you have never run before and would like to train for a 30K, I recommend giving yourself 20 weeks. Your first four weeks should look like this: 2-2-3; 2-3-4; 3-3-4; 3-3-5. I like to run Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday under this plan for best recovery.

I’m a strong believer in cross-training, and as such this is a cross training plan that includes interval and strength training, plus stretching in addition to running. I didn’t specify on the calendar, but I will also do at least 15 minutes of yoga every day. Stretching is super important, so if you don’t want to do yoga, I would recommend 15 minutes of stretching your entire body (not just your legs) every single day. On run days, you should stretch after your run.

I get bored pretty easily, so I plan to vary the types of cross training I’ll be doing. For strength, I will be switching off every other week between lower body lifting and rock climbing at our local gym. Other activities for strength day could be plyometrics, power yoga, incline hiking … your imagination is the limit. I chose rock climbing because it’s something I’ve had on my to-do list for two years. Buying a punch card to the gym is like a treat – a reward for training for this race.

Interval training is important for distance running, and even more so for trail running with elevation. Throughout the race you will be experiencing alternating climbing and downhill. Those climbs will require bursts of power, and that’s where interval training comes in. I’m planning to alternate fartleks and hill training. A fartlek is a short run with bursts of energy and rest periods. For example, you sprint 300 yards, walk or jog 100, sprint 300, etc. I’m going to keep my fartleks around two miles. Hill training is what it sounds like – you run up a hill at high intensity, then jog back down. I will start with five rounds, and work up from them. Interval training is a great way to combine strength training will a little bit of cardio and endurance work.

I list three types of runs:

  1. Long runs – On these runs, the focus is on distance and endurance. I don’t try to keep a specific pace, I just go with what feels right, even if that means walking a section. That’s NOT cheating and it’s silly to hold yourself to those kinds of standards. Always listen to your body first.
  2. Slow runs – Slow jogging. I try to focus on my form in slow runs. By taking long, purposeful strides instead of shuffling, you can stretch and lengthen your legs while running. Or maybe that’s just me. Slow runs help your body recover without taking a day off.
  3. Pace runs – On these runs, I focus on a strong and steady pace – no lagging. These are my “fastest” runs, which is why I plan them in the middle of the week. Running at a swift pace can be more exhausting than running for distance!

That about explains it. I modeled my program after the information I could find on the internet, articles from Runner’s World, and past experience. I’ll provide updates throughout my training – wish me perseverance!



17 thoughts on “Training for a 30K Trail Run

  1. I would think about switching your Saturdays and Sundays, putting your hardest days on the same day you will be racing. Will help have you body ready to go on race day,

    Also think of it as an easy day rather then a slow day, don’t be pigeon holed into running a certain pace. I’m a big proponent of being mindful of what your goal is for the day and also if your feeling good, you can up the tempo a bit more than on days when you don’t.


    • Thanks for the insight! I know I need to run my long runs on Saturdays, it unfortunately just doesn’t work with my schedule – I run with my BF and he works on Saturdays. For our long run, we generally drive 1-2 hours north into the mountains to simulate race conditions.
      Yes, it should be called an easy day – I wrote slow because I wanted to give myself leniency to run as slow as I need to, including walking. Mindfulness is key!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Would you and Andrew consider doing this race with us? It is the same camping/running situation, and I’m thinking of registering as a high school so it only comes out to be $55/runner. My sister in law and her boyfriend want to do it, but we need 5 more people to make a team…..something to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like you’ve got a great plan lined up! I entered my first ever race already this year, in April, and I’m that mix of terrified/excited. It’s a virtual race, which is nice as I can run my own route, and I’m actually excited to have committed to making sure I run consistently this year (it’s been a problem in the past). Best of luck with all your training; I’m sure you’ll kick ass at the race!

    I also completely understand the crap feeling of this time of year, Up here in NH it’s quite cold, and we have some snow so there is pretty much no room on the side of the road for running, plus ice patches everywhere. Makes running outside almost impossible. But, I’m working on keeping up with exercise via indoor stuff (yoga camp, other cardio, etc).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thats awesome!! You should totally blog about it – I’ve always been curious about virtual races!

      I do not miss the northern winters, that’s for sure. So much ice and grayness. Bleh. But soon y’all will have the most glorious summer ever filled with lush green 🙂


  4. Wow I don’t know if I could run one mile – sounds like a great goal !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is intense. I am tired just reading your plan, but I wish YOU the best of luck. I think my a-bit-too-enthusiastic high school cross-country and track coach ruined running for me…or I just hate it. That could definitely be it. Either way, totally awesome and best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is great! We blog about such similar things. I also am a 20 something living and homesteading in Appalachia, and constantly entralled with this new lifestyle I am discovering. I’m also training for a trail race: a 25k Haulin in the Hollers run in West Virginia. My very rural location has caused me to only be able to train on my treadmill or muddy, hilly trails. I’m excited to be a beast in a few weeks! Best of luck to you as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thanks for finding me! I love your blog and followed immediately! I glanced at your most recent post and am so intrigued … gonna make myself a cup of tea later and read through it 🙂
      This rain is killing me and I’m worried it’s going to ruin my training plan. Our trails are also so muddy! I just hate running on the road 😦 Best of luck on YOUR race!


      • I can relate to ruined training plans… our treadmill has recently broken down, leaving my husband and I with only the crazy mud “road” as an option right now. You should see our legs when we finish! Such is the fun of rural living I guess. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Great plan! I am shooting for a 25K in June and am an experienced road runner. Do you run all of these miles on trail or do you mix up the trail and road for your training? It’s obviously easier to run some on the road but mile for mile and terrain wise, they are not the same so I’m trying to figure out the best course to take. Would love your input…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! First off, good luck on your run! Here’s what I did – I always ran my long runs on trail. I tried to run at least one of my weekly runs on trail, even flat trail just for the terrain difference. I would say make sure you run at least one trail a week in the beginning, and two in the end.


  8. Thank you so much for this! I have been scowering the web for a 30k training plan made for trail racing and finally found your plan! What’s so perfect is that it is for the very race I am doing in May, Cradle to Grave!! I’m about 10 weeks out so a little behind per the plan but I’m also training for a half in March so I think I should be okay. I would love to find out more about your race experience so I can prepare myself for the race; it will also be my first long distance trail race! I’ve done shorter trail races and road marathons but this is going to be vary different for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you 🙌


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s