Trail Grading

The Wildrunner Trail Grading system (WTG) was designed by Owen Middelton to help you make informed decisions on trail running events around South Africa (and I assume the world). Unlike road running, trail running routes & races have many more facets to them, making them either harder or longer (in time) than you may expect. Every race/event should give you the total distance and accumulative ascent, but using road running sense to work out your time based on these factors alone would be a mistake!

The three primary 'trail factors' affecting your overal time & effort on a trail run are as follows:
1. Terrain difficulty (easy or tricky?)
2. % single track/off-road to on-road (how much on difficult terrain?)
3. Route severity (how steep?)

HOW DOES IT WORK?
The three factors mentioned above have been expanded into an easy three-part grading system. Each trail factor is listed below with the descriptions. Look out for races with an WTG and use this guide to make informed decisions.

DEFINITIONS:
'Technical' terrain = trail that is ‘busy’, that requires extensive concentration and trail running technique - for example a rocky hiking path, or a 4x4 track.
'Off-trail' = Describes sections that do not have any obvious or established route, for example a river bed, grass field or a section of beach.
'Single-track' = Describing a trail that is narrow and typically only wide enough for one runner to run on at a time and in single file. Examples of typical single track would be a hiking trail, mountain bike trail, game trail, livestock trail.

SOME EXAMPLES TO COMPARE WITH THE DETAILS BELOW:
Cape Winter Trail Series '11 Race 1: WTG = ORANGE 5A
Table Mountain Challenge, leg 3: WTG = BROWN 9B
Skyrun 100km: WTG = RED 9B

PART 1: ROUTE TERRAIN
YELLOW = Easy, non-technical terrain, all on established trails & tracks
ORANGE = Moderately easy terrain, short sections of ‘technical’ terrain but largely easy running, all on established trails & tracks
GREEN = Moderate challenging terrain, with a mix of ‘technical’ and ‘non technical’ terrain, mostly on established trails & tracks but may or may not have extended sections regarded as being ‘off-trail’
BROWN = Moderately difficult terrain, more ‘technical’ terrain than ‘non-technical’ terrain, challenging but mostly on established trails & tracks although may or may not have extended sections regarded as being ‘off-trail’
RED = Difficult terrain, majority ‘technical’ terrain that is extremely demanding, may or may not have large sections on un-established trails & tracks

PART 2: % SINGLE TRACK/OFF-ROAD
1 = 1-10%
2 = 11-20%
3 = 21-30%
4 = 31-40%
5 = 41-50%
6 = 51-60%
7 = 61-70%
8 = 71-80%
9 = 81-90%
10 = 91-100%

PART 3: ROUTE SEVERITY
A = Mostly runnable gradient
B = Mostly runable gradient, but has some steep ascent and descent that may require walking
C = Lots of steep ascent and descent that may require walking

This grading system was created by Owen Middelton and may be downloaded here.


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