By Stone Tsang
“Action Sprint” is a series of running and scrambling adventure races in Hong Kong, which may present many challenges for the beginner. However, there is no need to fear -as long as you are well prepared and have enough training, I’m sure you will have fun!
First of all, let’s discuss the most important equipment: Shoes. There are very big differences between road running and off-road / trail running shoes. When racing in an Action Sprint, surfaces normally consist of a combination of gravel, sand, dirt roads and even some slippery gorges. In addition, of course you have steep uphill and downhill sections which will make your feet suffer a lot. Therefore, it would be preferable for you to choose a running shoe which has a bit thicker sole for better strength and protection. Also, the more creases found on the bottom of the tread and the deeper these creases are usually the better. These will increase the shoes ability to “bite” or grip in any one given situation. It would be ideal if the body of the shoe is light weight and has a water run-off design, as you will often be getting your feet wet during competition. Most brands, such as The North Face, will have at least one model that fits this description.
Building your physical fitness and developing your running technique on the trail are two crucial ingredients needed in your successful preparation for an Action Sprint race. Actual field experience similar to the race is also an invaluable factor that can be achieved by running on mountain paths, technical trails, gorges, etc.
1. Physical Fitness:
Improving your physical fitness will help your body to cope and adjust more easily to the difficulties of running in more demanding off-road terrain, as opposed to running on the road. Advice to the beginner is that we do not recommend any speed or interval training. Instead, we would like to suggest that you focus mainly on endurance running, running a minimum of 40 minutes approximately 3 times a week and completing each week with at least one training session on the trail or off-road. It would be ideal to gradually increase your training time to at least 1 hour. But remember not too increase duration too quickly to avoid injury. A ten percent increase per month is good to start once you get your training program going. Sometimes running uphill or up steep road are also another recommended training method for increasing your cardio-respiratory endurance and muscle strength. As you gain experience you can develop a more comprehensive program that includes speed or internal training and longer endurance training.
2. Running Technique:
In addition to the physical fitness it is also important to improve the body’s balance and co-ordination to be successful in an Action Sprint type adventure race. Concentration should also be maintained at all times just in case the situation of the path or trail may suddenly change. While running, the position of your vision should not be focused directly on your feet. Instead you should be scanning your vision a little further out into the distance so that you can assess the current situation of the trail surface. This will help you to plan your route well in advance and this will improve your overall speed greatly.
Sometimes some sections in an Action Sprint are thick with forest or bush and steep, so it is recommended that your training also includes running and hiking through the bush on technical trails uphill and downhill. This will definitely help you with your muscle conditioning and will certainly make you faster on race day. If possible, try to train on the race route prior to race day; once is enough. The better understanding you have of the route, the more confidence you will have to finish the race. It is important to run with confidence and courage. You may run more tentatively and slower in the beginning, but that is okay. Your confidence will begin to build with the more experience that you get. Try building your confidence by being more aggressive on downhill and gorge sections during training and then in a race it will be easier to push faster. Just believe in yourself and you can make it.
During the competition
Make sure that you do not use up all of your strength and energy in the very beginning. This is a very easy and serious mistake to make. If you exhaust yourself too early, it will be very difficult to finish the race and it will be easier to get injuries. So please take the early sections nice and steady. Once your body has adapted then you can slowly increase your speed. Anyway enjoy your adventure race and Good luck!