[#CheapTrails] “Runnable” Trail: Difference Between Road and Trail Run

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“RUNNABLE” is Cebu Trail Runners’s Meyux Cordova’s typical answer to any one asking him to describe his trail route.  But any one who tried running with their group, including me, knows that “runnable” actually means “run away from them” or else you’d find praying hard for your dear life while hanging on the side of a cliff.


So what exactly are the differences between “road run” and “trail run”?

To encourage a lot of friends, I used to just give them an “it-is-easy-peasy” shrug and would tell them there’s NO big deal of difference between the two. On the back of my head, it can be trickier but there’s nature, fresh air, and that view which beauty can pierce into your being; these are more than enough to make up for the the trickiness. (Related story, “My Trail Running Dream Crashed, Burned, Spitted-On at Meyux/Lyra/Nap’s TRAIL.”)

But after some time, I realized my “encouraging” answer is not at all good. Of course, no one died from it. But I would feel so bad when I’d see the friends having a hard time at the trails, and worse hating trails because I did not give them a better clear picture of what to expect. The thing is I honestly do not know how to explain how “hard” is hard in trails.

One sample is “Why would we need to bring heavy hydration pack on a 12KM trail run?” Dafudge no one even drinks water on a 15km road run. Except for “Just to be sure” answer, I could not really give any concrete answer.

After always being disappointed with myself in “trail runs,” I learned a few things on how to assess a trail adventure.

1. ELEVATION. It’s TOTAL ELEVATION over TOTAL DISTANCE. Trail can usually mean mountains or hills so there’s always the change of elevation every now and then.

I always know that trail runs take longer time to finish over road runs. It’s usually fixed in road runs. I think every one knows that even the slowest runner can finish 5KM in an hour in a typical road run (4KM if the slowest runner is in its worst physical state).

In trail runs, it’s hard to pinpoint how many KM per hour can one go. So when we’re used to road runs, this is one of the main factors that can disappoint us in the trail when after 2 hours, we’re still in 5KM.

But now, don’t worry! I’ll share my secret on how to assess a trail running event *joke*:


GPS watches may not be accurate.

This is how it works for me: For every 500M elevation in a trail run, I would add 1 hour to my road-run time (excluding here is the degree of steepness which can be another additional time). Yours might be different so check your previous trail run stats or go out to get a feel of it.

For example, a 5KM trail run with 500M elevation means at least 2 hours for me to finish assuming that my 5km road run takes 1 hour. So if it’s a 21KM trail run with 1500 Total Elevation, if all things are “runnable”, I could probably do it in 6 hours. Because, let’s say I could finish 21KM in 3 hours in roads, I need to add 3 more hours for the 1500 Total Elevation factor.


Aside from elevation, technicality is another factor to consider in calculating your time.

Unless you have previous experience of the trail, it’s so hard to prepare or make a prediction for the technicality. And technicality can be wide range: from crossing a river or river trekking, steepness of ascent / descent, to almost non-existent paths on edges of the mountain especially when our local trails are not well-documented and maintained. I think I need to go out more to know the secret of predicting this.


This factor is quite hard to explain. And, I guess it’s the reason that Meyux just called it “RUNNABLE” to describe a doable technicality.

And, this is what separates trail run from road run. It’s the thrill of the unknown.

I hate to end this post with “basically.” But basically these are the 2 main factors I looked into when assessing a trail. The temperature is also something to consider but basically in a beach climate like Cebu, it’s usually not a priority.

* “Runnable” has touched a lot of people that Jacob Ong came up a shirt for it, and inspires me to write about #CheapTrails. Cebu Trail Runners “RUNNABLE” shirt is currently sold-out. We’ll update once it’s available for order again.

#CheapTrails (for cheap thrills) is a new series of features on runroo.com about trails – from events to thoughts. Check #cheaptrails on instagram, twitter, vine, piclyf, and other social media sites for trail-related photos and updates we share. Hashtag your trail experience too with #cheaptrails so we can follow it. =)

(Photo credits: Cebu Trail Runners page>>)

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Rose Buenconsejo. A runner who runs after runners, and their stories, and her dream to become a NEDBANK.
Promo Girl, runroo.com
View her aktib race calendar >>


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