Pounding pavement or shredding trails – which do you prefer? We talk to The North Face ultrarunner Andrew Tuckey about The North Face 100 ultramarathon coming up in May, and his thoughts on the dichotomy of road and trail running.

In four weeks, over 2000 people will embark on an endeavour that is as draining as it is fulfilling, as demoralizing as it is uplifting, and as painful as it is pleasure-filled. Some will run to compete, others will run to complete. Everyone will leave it all on the trails.

The North Face 100km - 2014

The North Face 100 2014 start line. Photo: Lyndon Marceau

The North Face 100 is an annual 100km ultramarathon located in the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park. It has been held since 2008 and grown to become one of the most talked about endurance events of its kind. Part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, The North Face 100 draws crowds locally and internationally, amateurs and elites alike with an option to run the 100km or 50km course.

The North Face ultrarunner Andrew Tuckey has finished on the podium for the past three years at The North Face 100. A trusted authority on trail running, we speak to him about the differences between road and trail running, and the importance of training on the trails once you sign up for a race like The North Face 100.

Trail Versus Road

AT: Trail running varies greatly between events but it can include steep climbs and descents, rocks, tree roots, mud and stairs as well as smooth fire trails and single track. It’s the varying terrain that is the main difference to road running. You need to be more prepared when heading out onto the trails and know if you’ll be able to get fresh water on course or have to carry your own. Navigation can also be an added challenge when running on unfamiliar trails and a few wrong turns can add significant time to your run.

While I love the simplicity of road running and the feeling of running fast in a road race, once you’re out running in the bush it’s nice to forget about your pace and just run. Your speed is less relevant because the terrain determines how fast you can go. It can also be easier mentally when running on a hilly trail course because the varying terrain keeps your mind engaged and you automatically break the run up into different sections, while road running can sometimes become a bit monotonous. I also love just getting away from it all and out into nature.

The North Face 100km - 2014

Andrew Tuckey. Photo: Lyndon Marceau

Training for Specifics

AT: Specificity is very important in training for a trail race. It’s important to try and get used to the different speed you’ll be travelling at in a trail race. Practice on similar hills and stairs is invaluable and also becoming more comfortable on technical terrain which can include rocks and tree roots. Most trail races include some tough hills and it’s very hard to train for these unless you get out onto similar trails. Not only do you physically improve but being prepared mentally for what you’ll face on race day is a big advantage.

With a host of variables that need not be considered with road running, trail running takes the act of running into an entirely new dimension for the athlete. Running on the trails requires a sharp focus and mental awareness, and provides the opportunity to tune in with the terrain and the surroundings on the trail. Injury is a looming risk as your feet move from rock to roots, charging up and down uneven or loose terrain. On highly technical track, each stride needs to be considered and calculated. This engages the mind, while the body pushes to keep moving forward. The result: a trail-run high and if you’re lucky maybe a state called ‘flow.’

The North Face 100km - 2014

The North Face 100 Course. Photo: Lyndon Marceau

If you’re looking to move your running regime to the trails, keep an eye on this event. Start small, get training and finish big at The North Face 100.

The North Face 100 takes place May 15 – May 17 in the Blue Mountains. Learn more about the event here

Check out The North Face – Australia & New Zealand on Facebook.
Check out The North Face 100 – Australia on Facebook.


About The Author


Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

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