|What makes a Mountain Runner
term ‘mountain runner’ and the thought of running up mountains must put
off many athletes who could in fact excel at the sport and discover an
enhanced experience of athletics.
Our sport is an endurance event and just like other distance races,
from 10k to Marathon, requires both endurance and speed but there are
many other aspects to consider.
One of these is the environment dimension to your running enjoyment.
Having an empathy with natural surroundings and a love of mountains and
the scenery is important. Tired of hammering out miles on hard tarmac?
tired of running round and round a 400m track? tired of the constant
pressure for PB’s? then mountain running may be your sport.
Another aspect is where you live. If in the centre of a city,
conventional distance running may be the most practical choice. If
living in a flat part of the country, training for mountain races may
be difficult. If you live in close proximity to hills or mountains, or
visit them regularly, the training terrain available to you makes
preparation for mountain running a real possibility.
Training to be a mountain runner requires the same kind of training
that you would do for any other endurance event with a few add-ons. We
find that Cross Country skiers excel at mountain running because it
develops the right kind of muscle strength and cardiovascular
The different type of muscle strength required to convert from, say,
marathon to mountain means that you have to include in your training
schedule both uphill and downhill running. To attempt a mountain race
that included descending without specific training is asking for
injury. Not only do muscles have to be attuned to descending but also
reflexes have to be alert to variable terrain. To attempt an uphill
mountain race based purely on flat running will soon destroy your speed
Having said that, only those with good basic speed will be able to
challenge for the top positions. What this means is a 10k time less
than 30 minutes or a Marathon time less than 2.20.00, both for men of
course, with equivalent times for women.
For those fixated on PB’s mountain running has little to offer. Your
rewards can only be measured in relation to your performance against
your fellow competitors, your performance on a particular course and
the joy of running in the nature. There are no records in mountain
running except those for a given mountain race course.
There are some recent examples of outstanding road athletes converting
successfully to mountain running. Geoffrey Kusuro (Uganda) won the 2007
World Trophy junior race and went on to take second place in the Mt
Obudu race in Nigeria. Rita Jeptoo (Kenya), winner of the Boston
Marathon a few years ago, picked up the $50,000 prize in winning the
2007 Mt Obudu race.
A common misconception surrounds the term ‘mountain running’ because
immediate thoughts of running up the Matterhorn or other high Alpine
mountains springs to mind. In fact, there are testing ‘mountain races’
staged on hills no higher than 200m. We have often been challenged to
define the difference between Cross Country Running and Mountain
Running. This has been resisted because the line between the two is
blurred. What we can say is that mountain running involves considerable
amounts of ascent and descent much in excess of that which would be
contemplated for a cross-country race. IAAF rule 250.10 applies.
There are some basic rules about distances and amounts of
ascent/descent which govern championship courses and these are needed
to consistency. There are bound to be mountain races which suit your
temperament and ability so why not consider an escape from the madding
crowd and seek out a mountain race in your locality to see what is