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Hike-and-run sessions: the long outing of the trail runner

As the name suggests, a hike-and-run session is a training session during which you alternate between periods of running and walking. Given the preference for conventional long outings where you run throughout the session, hike-and-run sessions are often overlooked despite the fact that they have significant benefits for trail runners, whatever their level of ability.


Preparing for a run lasting 4 hours or more with a hike-and-run session

On a trail run, and more especially on an ultra-trail run, it is impossible to run all the time. The challenges of the route (steep challenging climbs), weather conditions (heat, rain, wind, etc.) or simply the period of effort required (sometimes as much as 48 hours or more) make walking inevitable!

For example, for an event like the Grand Trail des Templiers in France (76km and 3500 m of elevation gain), walking times vary between 5 and 30% of the race time, depending on the person's ability level and objective.

When running in the countryside you therefore need to know how to walk.You don't think twice about the need to train to improve your running technique. Well, the same is true for walking. Hike-and-run activities therefore help you work on this technique as well as the changes in pace.


Getting your body used to hiking and running and testing yourself out over a long period of effort

The main advantage of a hike-and-run session is to increase endurance, thanks to the amount of training. This gets the body used to extended periods of effort so that the muscles of the legs and feet can cope with this type of effort in particular.

This type of outing also teaches you to manage yourself physically and psychologically. For example, it helps you to work out your starting pace so that you can keep going over the entire length of the run and cope better with the unavoidable moments of fatigue, or any despondency, and manage them more effectively on the day of the race.

Hike-and-run sessions also provide a great opportunity to check the equipment you are using in competition:footwear, socks, clothing, carrying accessories, poles, sunglasses, etc. It can also be used to try out and learn how to manage your solid and liquid provisions in order to avoid any nasty surprises on race day.


Adjusting the periods of time assigned to walking and running

Depending on the specific requirements of the race being prepared, the time of your hike-and-run session can vary and progressively increase from 3 to 6 hours for trail runs lasting between 4 and 12 hours and up to 10 hours for ultra-trail runs exceeding 24 hours in length.

During this outing, alternate between walking and running, according to the terrain, i.e. walk on the uphill sections and run at a relaxed pace on the easy-going sections (flat or downhill). Ideally, the walking time must be similar to that of the event you are preparing for, i.e. between 10 and 50% depending on your level of ability and the length of the run.

Depending on how you feel and your performance objectives, you can vary the intensity of the walking sections between being totally relaxed and pushing yourself quite hard.


Planning your hike-and-run sessions

Given the time spent, hike-and-run sessions cause muscle and nervous fatigue and should not therefore be overdone. During the intensive period of your preparation, we recommend that you alternate this every 2 to 3 weeks with your standard long outing (i.e. 6 hike-and-run sessions over a 3-month preparation cycle).

Avoid any highly intensive sessions during the 2 days preceding or following your hike-and-run session:preferably opt for short endurance outings or rest days.

Similarly, avoid any hike-and-run sessions during the 3 to 4-week period running up to your event to avoid generating any excess fatigue. This is to ensure that you feel really fresh when you reach the start line.


Make sure you enjoy yourself!

Finally, one of the final benefits of hike-and-run sessions – and a good one at that – is being able to really enjoy yourself during the session as you explore different trails or even as you enjoy the nature around you.

However, to ensure that you have an enjoyable outing, don't forget to take certain precautions such as preparing enough liquid and solid provisions, checking the weather forecast before starting out, having the right clothing with you as well as an Ordnance Survey map or GPS, a phone and notify your friends and family of your route and your ETA, etc.


Although hike-and-run sessions are an important part of your trail running preparation, they are, above all, a type of outing that you can share with your friends and give you some superb memories to cherish! So, here is a final word of advice: don't forget your camera so that you can immortalise these moments!