Most people would assume that mountain running and trail running are the same thing. Well, not quite. In this feature we explore what mountain running is (also known as fell running) and why it’s such a great sport to do.
Mountain running is the sport of running and racing off road but in the mountains or fells. Trail running is different in that it is considered “trail” running as long as you run on any unpaved surface. It’s however fair to say that trail running sometimes merges into mountain running as a result of changes in terrain and landscape during trail runs.
Mountain running races are also becoming very popular worldwide and are generally quite short, between 8-12km. This is mostly due to the harder terrain to traverse, gradients required to be scaled and the technicality of the mountains and hills covered. There are however also many races which happen that are as short as 15min, where it’s a sprint over a tough climb or descent. The races don’t allow equipment like bags, sticks, ropes, compasses, etc., so they make it as tough as possible for their participants.
There’s even a subset of mountain running which has emerged called Skyrunning – defined loosely as races which are more than 22km and less than 50km, with at least 1,300m of positive vertical climb.
Ultimately, what mountain running is all about is taking trail running to new heights, literally, by pushing the focus on running mountain and fell trails and therefore rewarding it’s participants with amazing views, a sense of adventure and a completely varied terrain.
To get yourself geared to great mountain running, you need to be prepared for it to ensure that you not only enjoy a good mountain run, but master it. Your muscles need to be accustomed to the demand of uphill and downhill running and you have to have fairly quick reflexes to cope with the varying terrain which can throw a surprise at you in an instant.
Here are a few basic tips to help you on your way
* Train often to build endurance. Your aerobic capacity is very important for mountain running, so doing frequent easier mountain runs at an easy pace helps build yourself for a proper mountain run. Build up gradually as you become more accustomed to it.
* Cycling is a very effective training tool for mountain running, working your legs and midline to increase strength and capacity needed.
* Learn how to master a hill properly. Read this great feature on how to master a hill and you’ll soon be maintaining a great pace on mountain runs.
* Do more strength training to improve upper body strength. Stronger arms, shoulders and midline will assist hugely with mountain running.
* Learn to pace yourself. Maintaining a descent and consistent pace is always going to ensure your best performances, and with mountain running, you don’t want to burn out too quickly.
* Warm up and stretch properly. You’ll need to have your muscles and joints ready for a fairly tough run, so much sure they are primed for performance and to avoid injury.