How to Train for Your Ragnar Trail Relay

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Runner crossing the finish line
If you enjoy a physical challenge, being part of an unconventional team and camping out in spectacular outdoor places, then you’ve either already signed up for a Ragnar Trail relay or you’re someone who should seriously consider it.

Below is an overview and training primer to help you prep for the event. Many REI stores will also have Ragnar gear-up events where you can learn more. Check with your local REI store to see if they are hosting a Ragnar event and to find out if they have any Ragnar classes and training sessions available.

For some fundamentals about the sport of trail running, you can also check out REI’s article on Trail Running Basics.

 

 

Ragnar Trail Basics

ragnar trail running relay team schedule example
What is Ragnar Trail? Named after a legendary Viking king, Ragnar describes itself as “the overnight running relay race that makes testing your limits a team sport.” It started as a road-running event and Ragnar Trail is its trail-running evolution.

What’s the format? Unlike the original point-to-point format, Ragnar Trail is centered around Ragnar Village, a kind of a festival camp in the wild.

A typical team consists of eight members, each running three loop trails of varying difficulty and distances. The loops start and end at the Ragnar Village and each runner runs all three loop trails. As one of those runners, you’ll be looking at hundreds of feet of elevation change and 15 or more miles altogether within about a 24-hour period.

Getting on a team: You can get the full rundown and sign up your team on the Ragnar Trail website. If you’re looking for runners to fill out a team, or for a team to join, you have some options. Individual events in the nationwide Ragnar Trail series have links to Facebook pages that can help with those connections.

 

 

Ragnar Trail Training Schedule

a crowd of ragnar trail running relay participants running
 

For a comprehensive approach to your training, REI and Ragnar suggest you follow a 12-week program:

table showing details of the Ragnar Trail training plan

 

MONDAY

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY

THURSDAY

FRIDAY

SATURDAY

SUNDAY

WEEK 1

20 min.
Hills

Active Rest

20 min.
Tempo

Active Rest

Cross-training

40 min.

Long Run

Rest

WEEK 2

20 min.
Hills

Active Rest

20 min.

Tempo

Active Rest

Cross-training

45 min.

Long Run

Rest

WEEK 3

30 min.
Hills

Active Rest

30 min.

Tempo

30 min.

Easy Run

Cross-training

60 min.

Long Run

Rest

WEEK 4

35 min.
Hills

30 min. Easy Run

30 min.

Speed

30 min.

Easy Run

Cross-training

60 min.

Long Run

Rest

WEEK 5

35 min.
Hills

Active Rest

35 min.

Tempo

30 min.

Easy Run

Cross-training

70 min.

Long Run

Rest

WEEK 6

45 min.
Hills

40 min. Easy Run

35 min.

Speed

30 min.

Easy Run

Cross-training

80 min.

Long Run

Rest

WEEK 7

45 min.

Hills

Active Rest

40 min.

Tempo

45 min.

Easy Run

Cross-training

50 min./30 min. Long Runs

Rest

WEEK 8

60 min.
Hills

45 min. Easy Run

40 min.

Speed

45 min.

Easy Run

Cross-training

80 min.

Long Run

Rest

WEEK 9

45 min.
Hills

Active Rest

45 min.

Speed

45 min.

Easy Run

Cross-training

50 min./50 min. Long Runs

Rest

WEEK 10

45 min.
Hills

45 min. Easy Run

45 min.

Speed

45 min.

Easy Run

Cross-training

80 min.

Long Run

Rest

WEEK 11

30 min.
Hills

35 min. Easy Run

30 min.

Speed

30 min.

Easy Run

Cross-training

25 min./20 min. Long Runs

Rest

WEEK 12

20 min.
Easy Run

Active Rest

20 min.

Tempo

20 min.

Easy Run

RAGNAR TRAIL EVENT!

Sleep.

You can use this calendar as a starting point, modifying it based on your experience and needs. Your weeks should start easy, gradually become harder and then become easier for the last couple of weeks. As with all training programs, consult your physician before you start.

hill iconHills: Depending on the course for your Ragnar event, at least one leg will require an elevation change of anywhere from a few hundred to more than a thousand feet. In addition to getting your muscles ready for the burn, you’ll also want to hone your ascending and descending technique.

Repetition helps you improve your technique and hone your cadence for your fitness level. Hill training builds muscle and increases your lactate threshold. Your hill-training runs should progress from 20-minute sessions up to 60-minute sessions, then back down to 20 minutes the week of Ragnar.

 

tempo run iconTempo run: Run 5 minutes at your "tempo pace": You're only able to utter single words. Follow this with 3 minutes of jogging.

Repeat this sequence until total tempo-pace time reaches the daily goal (don't include jogging time). For example: Do 6 of these sequences on a 30-minute tempo day.

 

run iconEasy run: The goal is to stay active as you build your cardiovascular base miles. Easy runs are the foundation of any good training program. Slip in a run between your other responsibilities. Make it social to help you stay motivated.

These runs should be at a pace where you can easily carry on a conversation. Focus on time rather than distance, progressing from 30-minute runs up to 45-minute runs, then back down to a 20-minute run the week of Ragnar.

 

speed run iconSpeed run: Run 3 minutes at your "speed" pace: You can't really talk at all. Jog for 3 minutes. Run for 2 minutes at your speed pace, followed by 2 minutes of jogging.

Repeat this sequence until total speed-pace time reaches the daily goal (don't include your jogging time). For example: Do 4 of these sets on a 20-minute speed day.

 

kettle bell iconCross-training: The purpose is to increase the fitness of muscles that support the primary running muscles. It allows you to focus on nuances of trail running including proprioception—an awareness of your own body position. Plus, you get a break from running’s repetitive motion. Include a core workout, plus resistance and strength training.

 

 

long run iconLong runs and twice-a-day running: These runs stretch the limits of your base miles and develop your aerobic endurance. Get out and explore new trails and focus on honing your running mechanics rather than racing. Maintaining a consistent heart rate over the course of your long runs is a great indication of fitness. You may want to invest in a heart rate monitor.

Focus on time rather than distance, progressing from 40-minute runs up to 100 minutes of running, then back down to 45 minutes of running the week before Ragnar.

At Ragnar you’ll be running three legs within a 24-hour period, so you need to acclimate your body to recover quickly. Thus you want to include several twice-a-day runs into these training days, with most of those coming in the final weeks of training.

 

active heart iconActive rest: Do any activity that keeps your body and muscles moving without taxing your cardiovascular fitness or recovery process. That includes activities like light walking, passive yoga poses or a stretching/foam-rolling session. Active rest days help prevent soreness and reduce the likelihood of injury.

 

 

heart icon

Rest: The goal on these days is to give your body a break. Rest days are critical to avoid overuse injuries. Passive yoga sessions are fine for these days, though.

 

 

Additional Ragnar Tips

a ragnar trail running relay participant running at night

Practice Night Running

At least one, and usually two, of your race legs will be at dawn, dusk or in total darkness, so you need to be comfortable running at night. You’ll also need a headlamp that’s up to the challenge: Ragnar requires lighting with a minimum brightness of 70 lumens.

REI’s Expert Advice article on how to choose a headlamp can help.

Some runners prefer handheld flashlights to headlamps. Handhelds can also make it easier to see the trail if it rains on race day. Be sure you get a model that straps to your hand.

 

Bone Up on Your Camping Skills

If you’re a runner but not (yet) a camper, check out our article on Festival Camping: Tips for Planning and Choosing Gear. You can also find dozens more camping-related articles online and classes in stores, ranging from how to choose a tent to how to make a gourmet cup of coffee.

 

 
 
 

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Contributing Experts

Daniel Grillo

Daniel Grillo oversees REI Outdoor School Programs and is an avid trail-running devotee.

Jose Gonzalez

Jose Gonzalez is a trail-running devotee who oversees REI outdoor programs.

Daniel Jessee

Daniel Jessee is an REI Regional Experiences Manager based in Atlanta. He has traveled to 17 countries where he has used his cellphone.

Mick Minard

Mick Minard is a trail-running devotee who works for REI Outdoor Programs in the Tri-State Region.