How To Train For It:  Timber & Trails 5K

Tricks, Tips, & Suggestions For Running The Timber & Trails 5K

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 tips put together by the Race Directors along with actual training plans used by runners in their current or past training cycles.  

Timber & Trails 5K

Most of you reading these Next Opportunity blogs are experienced trail runners. Many of you are even experienced ultramarathon runners. So, it can be easy for runners with extensive trail and ultra running experience to worry too much about training for a 5K like the Timber & Trails. However, this race is deceptively challenging. On paper, the race may not look like much of a challenge. There isn’t much elevation. The course is a simple, basic loop making it easy to navigate. Lastly, most of the race takes place on relatively level grassy double track paths. So, what is there to really worry about?

Here are a few things to consider when training for the Timber & Trails 5K.


A thick summer haze over the valley on race day in 2017.

More so than in any other race we manage, the Timber & Trails 5K is plagued by extreme heat. We are talking 90-degrees at sunrise coupled with intense humidity that makes it hard even take a deep breath. In 2017 the race day humidity was so high that all our photographs from that day looked like they were taken in a thick fog. Mid-July in Kentucky is nothing short of scorching! So, you’ll need to be able to summon every ounce of performance from lungs that can’t seem to get enough oxygen and legs that feel weighed down by invisible ballast.


In all reality, we won’t be able to truly simulate the race day heat conditions until we are well into June. So if you have access to an indoor gym, hit the dreaded treadmill with a long sleeve shirt and pants on even if it is nice outside. Sure, you will get some weird looks from the other gym patrons, but this workout will help condition your muscles to work under heated conditions.

To address the difficulty with breathing that you will face at the Timber & Trails 5K, make a trip to the sauna or steam room if you have access to those facilities. A steam room will be most beneficial as the increased air moisture will train your lungs to operate in humid conditions.

Lastly, focus on leg strength. Your legs truly will feel as though they have weights tied to them on race day as a result of the heat. Squats and leg presses will be your friend in preparing for this race. The stronger your legs are, the more you will be able to combat the effects of the heat.

Slippery Turf

These paths will be SLICK on race day!

The first and last quarter to half a mile take place on a level, gravel road at this race. The rest of the race course is a grassy, wide doubletrack path. No problem, right? We’ll just strap on our road shoes and give it hell. Not so fast! The summer humidity can make the grass and underlying earth extremely slippery that early in the morning even without any rain leading up to race day. Does that mean this is a race that will require your most aggressive pair of trail shoes? Maybe not. You will, however, need to be very conscious and aware of the slippery grass under your feet when you hit turns. Don’t expect to plant your outside foot, dig in, and speed around a corner. You will end up in the dirt if you try that. So the challenge will be chasing that goal time while intentionally slowing down in the curves to avoid taking a spill.


The spring months leading up to the race in July will promise to be very wet if history is any indicator. The spring rains will make many of our favorite off-road paths pretty darn wet! This is a perfect time to test out your footwear and your cornering techniques. There are several turns on the Timber & Trails 5K course that are very sharp including one 180-degree turnaround.

Find a large, grassy field. A soccer field or football field will work. If you have a large yard, that will work too. Just make sure that the location is as level as possible and has at least one 90-degree corner. Now it is time for some repeats! Set the distance of your repeats based on your experience and fitness level, but make your effort a little faster than your best road 5K effort. You should really be pushing it!

Now, start out each interval on a straight section that will take you around one of the corners of the field. Depending on the side of the field you can do loops or simply go back and forth around the same corner. The latter will be greatly beneficial as you will be able to work out both sides of your body. The goal here is to practice going around a sharp turn, on slippery grass, while slowing down as little as possible. If you have the options, try out every pair of shoes you own to see which ones work best. Focus on your foot placement, balancing yourself with your arms, and using your hips and shoulders to steer yourself around the corner.

Recommended location: If you are in central Kentucky and can make the drive to the city of Berea, we recommend doing this workout at the Alumni Field behind the Berea College campus on Scaffold Cane Road. This is a huge field with a grass, dirt, crushed gravel path around the perimeter. That path is just more than 1 mile long with four sharp corners and is perfect for this workout.