Training for The Goat Tongariro

There’s only one month to go before The Goat - the volcanic adventure run. This will be my first time participating in this event, and I have prepared my own training program for the remaining four weeks.


For those not familiar with the race, The Goat is approx 20K with 1,000 metres of vertical ascent and channels runners through unique terrain of ancient lava fields, grasslands and waterfalls. Running fast and smoothly through this terrain is the biggest challenge – I’m sure most trail runners that have spent time in the area would agree with me.

One month might not sounds like a lot of time to prepare for the race, but it all depends on the starting point. In this case, sometimes even a few weeks is enough to condition for a specific race with specific racing demands (for example: long downhill segments, technical terrain, long steep uphill segments etc.). In other cases, longer preparation is necessary to match race demands. I use this approach (of determining your ‘starting point’) for my own training and when coaching my athletes.

So today I start from a:

  • Reasonable cardiovascular fitness (after 2 months dedicated to road running and speed)

  • Reasonable overall speed on flat terrain (recent 5K 15:31)

  • Slightly limited uphill strength (not enough time spent training on hilly terrain)

  • Limited uphill climbing power on steep uphill slopes

  • Limited weekly/monthly training volume (70 to 90K per week), which needs to go up

…. therefore my goals for the next month to condition for the race

  • Incorporate 2 x HIIT sessions per week dedicated to uphill running fitness

  • Incorporate downhill and technical terrain drills

  • Increase weekly training volume for the next 3 weeks

  • 2 x S&C sessions per week (minimum)

  • At least two long runs (>20K) per week

Week 1

As you can see, week one is not entirely easy one. Two high intensity workouts combined with higher overall weekly mileage is always a challenge. Before doing 1K uphill intervals (scheduled for Friday) I have completed an uphill conditioning session (Tuesday’s session with 20 to 45s uphill intervals), which aims to improve musculoskeletal readiness for longer uphill intervals. Longer and tougher sessions are separated my easier/recovery days and I will try to include supplementary training in a form of plyometric drills and core conditioning exercises to maintain overall fitness.

Week 2

Week two is a race week (Waihi Trail Half), therefore, any quality workouts have to be shifted to the beginning of the week. As this is only a training race, I will taper for a few days (which could be different for other key running events). Two quality workouts will cover essential aspects of fast trail racing – speed and uphill strength. I usually modify the intensity of final workouts before the race, and instead of going all-out or 90% of all speed capacity, I choose to do session at threshold intensity (say, 70-80% of speed capacity). I find that running every day before the race gives more confidence and keeps body sharp.

Week 3

Back to training. Hopefully it will not take long to recover after Waihi Half, and I will try to speed up recovery by foam rolling, stretching, sauna and possibly a massage. This week’s focus - another two cardiovascular sessions. For Wednesday’s session, I will choose an uphill slope that is not too steep, in order to challenge both cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. But for Friday’s sessions, the uphill slope (for 30s intervals) has to be steep in order to get maximal engagement from gluteal (aka. butt) muscles. From mid-week I will limit my longer runs up to 90mins to allow enough time for muscles to recover, and if necessary will take one extra day of recovery, as all that matters at this stage are key speed/uphill workouts.

Week 4

Race week. This week’s training is a relatively standard approach to the race week. Trying to stay active every day up to the race day. Getting one conditioning session early in the week will hit higher heart rate zones without fatiguing body too much. Also, the last two days before the race I am hoping to be on the course. A few short runs should be sufficient to refresh the memory of the tracks and get into a racing mood.

Enjoy The Goat!