While mountain running can be a truly transformative experience, it’s no easy walk in the park. The steep terrain, the technical trails, and the lung-searing thin air will challenge your body (and mind) like nothing else.
But the rewards more than make up for all the trouble. Once you make it to the top, you’re treated to fresh air, pristine views, and an unrivaled sense of accomplishment.
What could have been a boring, yet another, run has turned into something that engages all of your senses, and a welcome change to the usual weekend plod.
Tackling mountains not only makes your training more fun but also helps take your running performance to a whole new level.
Want to reap some of these benefits? Then you’re in the right place.
In today’s post, I’ll share a few guidelines to help you get started with mountain running the right way so you can improve your readiness, technique, endurance, and enjoyment.
Let’s get started.
Get The Right Equipment
Heading into the mountains for a run is very different from pounding the urban streets. Weather conditions can change fast in higher elevation, and storms can roll in quickly. This could mean cold rainstorms or scorching hot weather.
Therefore, having the right mountain running kit is key for safety and comfort. Here’s what you need:
- Fuel and hydration. To stay well fueled and hydrated, take with you a small snack or energy bar and enough water. I’d recommend using a small fanny pack and/or waist belt for short jaunts.
- Sun protection. Protect yourself with sunscreen, but to do not apply too much as it can block sweat pores and cause you to overheat. Sunglasses are also a must.
- Base layer. This one should be made from breathable, high performance, moisture-wicking fabrics. Your socks should also be synthetic or wool sock. Avoid cotton at all times.
- Lightweight wind jacket. It can get very windy and wet fast on top, so a water- or windproof jack is a must.
Don’t worry about it, though. The more experience you gain from mountain running, the more it’ll help you over time to be more in tune with your own needs.
Master The Technical Terrains
Getting into mountain running isn’t complicated, but there’s a lot more technique involved than you might realize. Think of mountain running as an obstacle-course run, an apparently endless romp over roots and rocks.
Here’s how to improve your technique.
Over technical surfaces, shorten your stride length so you can easily navigate the terrain and react without overstriding. The steeper the slope, the smaller the steps. This helps you maintain a good pace and prevents you from getting overly tired.
The same goes for steep hills, both up and down. Power hike if the slop is over 20 degrees, and when going up a long trail. This should also help you up there with technical footing and dealing with the altitude.
You can also develop your ability first to move efficiently through technical terrains by going for long hikes through talus or scree fields, especially if you’re prone to ankle sprains and/or have poor balance and coordination.
Your mountain running pace is likely to be slower overall, and much less consistent from mile to mile than when running on paved, flat, surfaces.
While you might be able to log in an 8-minute mile on the road, don’t be shocked if, on mountainous trails, your average pace works out to 12 to 15 minutes per mile—or even slower.
As a rule, run according to your effort instead of pace. This means adjusting your pace to the terrain: run a bit quicker on flat-ish sections on well-worth tracks or path, but take your time on steep and technical terrains. Slow down or speed it up as it feels right.
If this is your first time running in the mountains, please pay attention to safety. Mountainous paths, by their very nature, are more far-off than pavements or roads. You’re also exposed to elements and wildlife, so getting help if things go south is more of a challenge.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Don’t run alone. Instead, run with your buddies or a dog if possible. Running with others provides an element of safety in case things turn south.
Leave word. Tell someone where you’re going to run and the expected time of return. God forbid in case you got lost or hurt, at least, someone else knows where you are.
Have network. Take a cell phone with you, not just for selfies, but for safety. In case of network coverage is an issue, take a trail map and monitor where you are along the trail as you go.
Plan your course. Know where you are running and estimate how long it will take you.
Be mindful. Always pay attention to what’s going on around you. Don’t let your guard down.
There you have it. If you’re looking to make mountain running a part of your workout routine, then the above measures are enough to get you started. The rest is up to you.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
Thank you for dropping by.