Training For Your First Ragnar

Our SPIRE Squad has been working hard all summer training for ½ marathons, marathons, and most recently, the 2017 Northwoods Trail Ragnar. I will start this post by stating, I am a casual runner. My running pace is average. I have only completed two races in my life, both were charity 5Ks. Despite all of this, I ended up signing up for my first-ever Ragnar Trail Race in Northern Wisconsin…… AND I LOVED IT.


If you’re someone that likes to work towards a goal or misses the connection of playing team sports, a Ragnar is for you! What exactly is a Ragnar? Long distance, team, overnight running relays races in scenic locations across the country. There are two types, Road and Trail.

The Trail Ragnar involves a team of eight people, running roughly 124 miles through scenic National Parks. Each team member completes three running loops in a predetermined order. For example, runner one will run the green loop, tag-out runner two who runs the yellow loop, and tag-out runner three who runs the red loop. This pattern continues until all members of your team have run all three loops.

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Your team will cycle through the loops for roughly 24 hours until the 124 miles are complete. While you’re not running, you are camping with friends, relaxing under the stars, playing games, and if you have time, sleeping! Interested in trying out a Trail Ragnar? Below are my top five tips for training for your next race.

1. Get Fitted for Running Shoes

I’d highly recommend getting fitted for a good pair of running shoes. You can buy road and trail shoes or just stick with road shoes. Either way, you’ll want something supportive when running long distances. Living in Milwaukee? We recommend InStep Physical Therapy & Running Center. They are right down the street from SPIRE and will measure your feet and look at your stride to determine the best shoes for you.

2. Train As a Group


One of the reasons I’ve never run a marathon is a lack of accountability. I have a hard time committing and rarely want to go on a run by myself. The Ragnar Team was the perfect choice for overcoming these obstacles. I signed up with a team. I couldn’t let them down. Plus, we scheduled weekly team runs through the SPIRE 128 Run Club and completed practice trail runs as a team.

These group training sessions made it a lot more fun. I had people to talk to during the run and teammates to share my experiences with post-run. We all kept each other accountable and inspired one-another to keep going.

3. Cross-Train

The most challenging aspect of the Ragnar was the rough terrain. We’re talking rocks-on-rock and roots for days. This type of terrain takes a lot of additional strength from the body. I’d recommend spending 2 -3 days per week focusing on the following,

  • ankle and hip stability exercises
  • core and lower back exercises
  • foot, ankle, hip endurance
  • agility drills
  • mobility drills

As a regular SPIRE attendee and instructor, I found the following classes helpful in my training, 

  • SPIRE TRX classes are great for balance and stability movements, as well as improving mobility.
  • Rip classes will help you focus on stabilizing your trunk and improve core and lower back strength.
  • Cycling classes are a great cross-training option as they build ankle, foot, and hip strength, as well as improve your cardiovascular abilities.
  • HIIT classes, like SPIRE Fire, are great for agility and cross-training.
  • SPIRE Crew Classes are great for increasing lower body power (blast up those hills), strengthening the lower back and core, and improve your cardiovascular abilities
  • Cardio Kickboxing is a great tool to improve ankle, foot, and calf strength and endurance.

4. Switch It Up

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Make sure to continue to add new elements to your runs. Trail running in the definition of mix-terrain. You will see it all! Change the terrain (road, trail, flat, hills, rocks, sand, switchback trails), switch up your pace (slow long runs, sprints, tempo runs), and change up the elevation.

Our typical training included,

  • Road Tempo Runs: three minutes’ fast pace, three minutes’ slower pace
  • Hill Sprints: 1:2 intervals, sprint up hill, jog down (Bradford beach is a great place to practice!)
  • Long Road Runs: 4+ miles focusing on endurance
  • Build Up Trail Runs: practice running on mixed terrain (Laphman Peak was a great spot to train for hills and elevation gain! If you can find any single-track mountain bike paths, I’d recommend that too!)
  • Cross-Training at SPIRE
  • Yoga or foam rolling multiple times per week
  • Even a few night runs!

5. Don’t Take Things Too Seriously

Have fun! The prize is finishing and finding a new challenge for yourself. Show up on race day ready to have fun. You might have to walk, you may experience new challenges that you didn’t train for, you might fall, your pace may be slower than you expected. That’s all ok! Know you’ve got this.

Finally, I reached out to our Ragnar Team and asked if they could provide any bits of advice for you all. Here is what they shared!

"Don't give up! It will be unlike any other race you've done!" 

"Practice running twice a day a few times; to get your body used to having to run more than once in 24 hours."

"Train on trails as much as possible since it's such a different workout and experience than training on road."

"Don't get frustrated at your pace while training on trails. Your trail pace will likely be slower than your road pace (at least when you are first starting out) and that is perfectly fine!"

Want to experience the Ragnar for yourself? Check out their website for upcoming races! Want to train with us? Join the SPIRE 128: Run Club Facebook page for updates and upcoming runs. We will be meeting every Wednesday night at 6:30 PM this fall and the following Saturdays,

  • Saturday, September 30th at 9:30 AM (5 mile run)
  • Saturday, October 7th at 9:30 AM (7 mile run)
  • Saturday, October 21st at 9:30 AM (9 mile run)
  • Saturday, October 28th at 9:00 AM Lakefront Discovery Run

Join us!