Racing on trails requires far more than just pacing or fuelling strategies. Trail races will often go on unexpected terrains and surfaces - some runnable, some not - which are always a neuromuscular challenge. While the usual training practices around throwing in strength strength training, aerobic and anaerobic base building, fatigue adaptation, nutrition etc. are non-negotiable while preparing for trail and road races alike, there are a few extra complexities that come to the forefront when the routes go through slush, rocks, mountains and river crossings.
In this article, we highlight some of the top training spots in NCR where you can train for your next trail or mountain race. And as a bonus for reading all the way through, we’re throwing in some basic tips to master that next trail race.
Barring the crowds, this one is our favourite. Sanjay Van offers all sorts of trails to familiarise yourself with. In some ways, it’s an all-in-one package that will give runners the experience of running on rocks, through bushes, on hills, on pebbles and through forests alike.
Dargah Hill - A short 350m ‘hill’ with the first half at a 8% incline and the second half at 4%, this little segment is a powerhouse for doing any hill repeats. We recommend doing at least 10 repeats at 70-80% intensity and increase as you progress in your training cycle.
Stairway to Heaven - 56 steps in all, steeper than regular staircases (~20% incline), will give you what you need in your quads. We recommend at least 10 repeats and adding a little speed/power boost for the 100m after the stairs for maximum benefits.
Lal Kot Bastion - A 600m traverse along the ruins of Qila Lal Kot, this is a technical section with rocky climbs, rock landing and speedy single-track downhill on a highly uneven surface. The extended version can be used for even better stability drills as the wall becomes a path of rocks towards the southern section.
Aravalli Biodiversity Park (Vasant Kunj)
Another favourite of ours, one can get a feel of ridge running in the local forest. There are single track trails for speed, jungle segments for navigation, rolling rockies for footwork, and general steep sections for any sort of quality training.
Piglet Hill - Named after the pigs and piglets that can be found roaming around freely, the Piglet Hill is a short 200m steep hill that guarantees sore quads the next day.
The Dragonhead loop - Resembling a dragon’s back, this is one of the best training spots in Delhi as it packs just about enough speed, climbing and rocky downhill goodness into a powerful 1.3km loop.
(Welcome to) The Jungle loop - One of the most challenging 3km loops you’ll ever encounter in Delhi, the Jungle Loop is a seasonal training circuit (heavily overgrown during and post monsoons) that includes a 600m single-track, a 600m forest segment through thorns and bushes and another 600m of a rocky ridge where every step needs to be taken extremely carefully. This training loop is a navigational challenge, as no two attempts have ever been the same.
Tilpath Valley Biodiversity Park
One of the newest biodiversity parks in Delhi, Tilpath Valley can be accessed from Sainik Farms (main gate) or from Maidan Garhi (backdoor). Tilpath Valley enjoys the proximity to Asola Bhatti and offers similar terrain and training patterns as Asola Bhatti, minus the popularity.
The Dam Climb - Hidden away from most of the general population, this trail runs along the southern boundary of the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary and leads to a steep rocky climb next to what appears as a fence-dam combo. While the length of the climb is <200m, the climb itself can simulate any good mountain ascent.
Tilpath Valley SpeedLoops - There are multiple possibilities of speed training over small, medium and long distances as Tilpath Valley offers all the characteristics of rocky, hilly trails.
South Gate climb - The gates may not be open all the time, but the entry gate on the southern side of the park has a steep 200m hill that can be used repetitively for some quality training gains.
Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary
Asola Bhatti is widely popular in the running circuit owing to its significance as the only wildlife sanctuary in Delhi, and the Bhatti Lakes Ultra race that achieved a cult status in the running community. Almost all trails here can be found on maps and one can train for any sort of trail race here. Most of Asola Bhatti is also without any tree cover, which adds the element of heat and humidity adaptation as well.
Bharadwaj Lake rocks - Right next to Bharadwaj Lake is a possible landslide or explosion site that has resulted in a cascade of boulders leading down the lake pit. While this may may not be the ideal ‘flying on downhills’ training spot, this is a great ~100m section for familiarising yourself with climbing down mountains.
Anangpur trail - The trail that goes left towards Anangpur village where the Bhatti Lakes Ultra race route turns right is filled with rocks embedded in the soil and offer a rolling downhill for almost 1.5-2km till the village. This is an excellent section for practicing mountainous downhill flying.
Manav Rachna climb - When entering from the Manav Rachna side, the trail is a straight 500m uphill that has various ditches, rocks and potholes - and is a guaranteed slush-fest in the rains. 6-8 repeats of this section are great for preparing for races in the lower mountains or monsoon races down South.
Believe it or not, the stairs in your building are an invaluable asset when training for trail races. Just lace up your shoes and climb up and down on repeat. The higher your building, the better.
Tips and Tricks
Mind and foot coordination is key; familiarise yourself with running on different types of surfaces. The goal should be to get as comfortable running on rocks as you are on the road or mud tracks.
Running up the hill will not do much good; instead, focus on keeping a steady effort and minimise your recovery time for running downhill. Your focus should be on an intensity build-up that tests your recovery, rather than just getting segment CRs for fastest uphill times.
Walk, hike and climb as much as possible; take the stairs instead of the elevator, use the staircases in metro stations, walk up that local hill, spend more time on feet. In a trail race, especially mountain races, it’s all about how smoothly you’re moving.
How and where do you train? Let us know by dropping us a line!