How To Train For It:  Big Turtle 10 Miler

Tricks, Tips, & Suggestions For Running The Big Turtle 10 Miler

In the “How To Train For It” blog posts we will take a deep dive into a specific race distance to explore training tips, suggestions, and even sample training plans from the Race Directors and past runners of that race.  The “How To Train For It” blogs will include sample training plans put together by the Race Directors along with actual training plans used by runners in their current or past training cycles.  

Big Turtle 10 Miler

The Big Turtle 10 Miler is a brand, spanking new event at the Big Turtle trail races in 2018. The new 50K has the advantage of being very similar to the marathon that was run in 2017. So we can pull training ideas for the 50K from last year’s marathoners. But what about this 10 Miler? How do we prepare for that?

We’ve got you covered. Here are some things to consider when preparing for the Big Turtle 10 Miler on Saturday, April 21, 2018.

Difficult Terrain

Trail runners throw around the word “technical” a lot to describe trails with challenging obstacles such as rocks and roots. I’ve always thought of “technical” terrain requiring a certain amount of footwork and overall running technique in order to successfully navigate it. If that is true then the Big Turtle 10 Miler is 10 full miles of TECHNICAL.

Some of the 10 Miler's challenging terrain.

The race begins and finishes in Morehead, Kentucky on the campus of Morehead State University just like the other distances at the Big Turtle. Runners follow the Sheltowee Trace out five miles and back five miles. Those five miles are the toughest miles of the entire Sheltowee Trace between city of Morehead and the northern terminus 25 miles away. Runners will face rocks, roots, and more rocks. The terrain itself is challenging to run on, and runners of the 10 Miler will get no break whatsoever. Your choice of shoes and socks will be critical. The good thing about the 10 Miler is that there are no water crossings!


Find a section of trail that you consider to be extremely technical. It doesn’t matter if it is flat or hilly. The goal here is to get on terrain that is not smooth and well-groomed. Run some intervals over that terrain at various speeds to work on your responsiveness. A runner’s ability to efficiently navigate technical terrain is largely due to his or her ability to see and anticipate what is coming and react to it. Practice running faster than you are comfortable with along this stretch of technical terrain to practice your foot placement, balance, and reaction. If you don’t have a fittingly technical section of trail, find a rocky creek bed that is dry or has a low water level. Run up and down that creek bed!

Steep Hills

Poor souls trudging up one of the many short climbs over that brutal five mile stretch.

Poor souls trudging up one of the many short climbs over that brutal five mile stretch.

The Big Turtle 10 Miler is a doozy when it comes to ascents and descents. The race starts by climbing Heart Attack Hill - a 400’ (ish) climb to the top of the ridge above Morehead. Once you are up there that is that last of the “major” climbs. I use the word “major” here lightly because there are plenty of uphills and downhills to go around, but you won’t find anymore climbs along the course that ascend hundreds of feet. What you will find, however, is hill after hill after hill of incredibly steep ups and downs. Short but steep! And once you reach the top it drops you back down over and over.

Runners familiar with these five miles of trail refer to it in a number of ways: Dragon’s Spine, Roller Coaster, and “Oh Hell No” are just a few.


This where some good old fashioned hill repeats will come in handy. Find the steepest hill you can find. Hell, staircases will do as well! Run them up and down and up and down. Over and over. But don’t forget this key component: carry with you whatever you will have on race day!

If you plan to run the Big Turtle 10 Miler with a hydration pack, don’t do your hill repeats without it. You need to simulate race day conditions as closely as possible, so carry with you whatever you will have on race day.

Leg Strength

Many of us runners get caught up in simply logging miles. We think that if we are training to run long in a race we should be good at running long miles. That is not untrue but trail running requires more. Too often I have seen trail runners that just completely neglect their leg strength. We often don’t think about the raw leg power that is required to climb and descend and navigate obstacles on the trails.

Yes, you have one big climb at the beginning followed by a lot of little climbs on the way out and more on the way back. What you also have on the Big Turtle 10 Miler course is a lot of downed trees that you have to hop or step over. This will get tiring on your legs especially if you are pushing yourself at a pretty hard pace. Then you will have to come down Heart Attack Hill at the end of the race. This will wreak further havoc on those tired legs.

That last little downhill is a killer!


This one is pretty straightforward. Squats. Box jumps. Leg presses. Any exercise you can do to strengthen your legs - especially your upper leg - will benefit you on race day. If you don’t have access to a gym or fitness facility you can still do squats. Start out by doing basic bodyweight squats while focusing on proper technique. Add weight if you feel the bodyweight squats begin to feel too easy.