I was out for a run this morning on the trails of the North Shore - I missed out on the sun of the previous week, but even with a little sprinkling of rain (this was before the deluge kicked in) I was still able to appreciate what an amazing part of the world that we live in.
The other thing that I reflected on was how uniquely challenging this sort of running is... and, seeing as how my mind had a few minutes to wander, it went to the upcoming "Tough Mudder" that I'm going to be taking part in (which, actually, is what the run is a training component for).
From there, I started to think about how many people I know that have signed up for this race - and the fact that, while I think it's awesome for them to be challenging themselves, I am a little worried that many have been caught up in the hype without actually considering how challenging it's going to be. In fact, there are a lot of people I know who signed up that have never run more than 5km - on the road - let alone taken on a 16km trail race. Add to that 22 obstacles (some being fairly physically challenging) and an estimated 3hr+ completion time... well, there's a reason there's a lot of people fail to even complete it.
As I said, it's not the idea of taking on something big, and challenging - in fact, I applaud this. What's troubling to me is that a lot of these people don't seem to realize exactly how big and challenging it is, or how much work they should be putting in to prepare for it. A couple of one hour "Tough Mudder" bootcamp classes a week just doesn't cut it (even if they are super tough and make you feel like puking... which, actually, isn't a great method of training either but I'll leave that for some other time). The classes are improving your capacity to work hard, but that's about it - they're not addressing your strength or power, and they're not helping develop your trail-running ability. And actually, if the race does last 3 hours, then they're not going to even do your conditioning a lot of good outside of the first 45mins.
The good news? It's getting to the breaking point, but it's not too late yet to start to train properly. My suggestion is, at a minimum, 3-5hrs a week of training from now until the race. Do one hour of basic strength and movement training, one hour of basic conditioning (this would be the boot camp or circuit class), 45mins (including warm up and recovery) of running intervals (preferably hill, since you're likely to need some running power development), and finally, 1-2hrs of running on terrain that is similar in technical difficulty and elevation gain/loss to the locale you'll be racing in.
Please don't take this as a lecture - it's simply because I don't want anyone to have a bad time because they can't finish, or worse, because they get hurt. These type of races are very popular and yes, very cool - but if you're taking on one of the bigger ones, you need to commit to the preparation time as well.