Old School Vibes at Organized Training Runs

In a world of increasingly commercialized racing, old-school and low-key organized training runs provide the homegrown feeling of yesteryear.

By on April 26, 2024 | Comments

AJW's TaproomEarlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in Aravaipa Running’s Cocodona Training Run.

The run, which covers the notoriously difficult first 37 miles of the Cocodona 250 Mile, is organized by race director Steven Aderholt and allows runners to preview the course with some aid station support but without course markings. All participants must load the course GPX file onto their watches or phones and carry a minimum of four liters of water to get them through the lengthy stretches between water stations.

After a few miles, I settled into a small group of runners who were going about the same pace as I was and proceeded to enjoy a full, sun-splashed day in the beautiful Bradshaw Mountains. All day long, I was struck by how relaxed and happy everyone was throughout the run. While it was a serious effort on an extremely difficult section of trail, the lack of race day pressure was palpable and allowed everyone to not only enjoy the incredible scenery but also to share in the wonderful camaraderie these unique events offer.

Cocodona 250 training weekend group shot

The group at the 2024 Aravaipa Running’s Cocodona Training Run. All photos courtesy of AJW.

In addition to the recent Cocodona Training Run, I have been fortunate to participate in three other noteworthy organized training runs hosted by race organizations over the years.

The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club hosts a three-event series called the Massanutten Mountain Trails Training Academy each spring. These three runs, which are all free of charge, traverse the entirety of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile course.

Runners receive a small amount of aid station support and detailed “turn sheets” that help them stay on course. I had the pleasure of attending several of these training academy runs when I lived in Virginia, and each time I left with tired legs and new running friends.

For several years, the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile organizers hosted a 50-kilometer run on the beautiful trails around Lake Tahoe. Free of charge and open to anyone who wished to run, the training run allowed runners to be on sections of the course that are only accessible on race day. Additionally, this training run let runners have an early season test of the high-altitude conditions they would face on race day.

Finally, there is the incredibly popular Western States 100 Memorial Weekend Training Camp. This three-day running extravaganza gives participants an opportunity to cover the final 70 miles of the iconic Western States 100 course with a 32 miler on the first day, a 19 miler on the second, and a 20 miler on the third.

This training camp provides transportation each day, fully staffed aid stations, and a well-marked course. At $170 to participate in all three runs in 2024, the cost is quite affordable. The camp is also open to all, regardless of whether they are entered in the race or not.

Morning of Cocodona 250 training run

The low-key vibe of organized training runs make them a great opportunity to make new running friends … and see the course.

As the sport of trail running and ultrarunning has grown and events have become more and more commercialized, it is refreshing to see these homegrown organized training runs thriving.  They provide runners with wonderful opportunities to access beautiful places, and their low-key atmosphere is a chance to slow down, take in the view, and enjoy each other’s company. I, for one, look forward to participating in many more in the years to come.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Brookeville Beer Farm logoThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from the Brookeville Beer Farm in Brookeville, Maryland. Coppice is an English-style Extra Special Bitter (ESB) with strong notes of freshly baked bread and a deep malty finish. Reminiscent of the classic British bitters, Coppice is a unique take on a timeless classic.

Call for Comments

  • Does your local race organization host group training runs associated with their races?
  • Have you participated in any of the race training runs mentioned in this article?
  • Do you think training runs like these can contribute to the healthy development and support of the trail running and ultrarunning community?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.