Thinking about taking your first steps into mountain running this season? Trail running and mountain running share many similarities but there are several differences that you need to be aware of before you take those steps into Mountains. To make the transition a little easier I’ve put together a list of my top mountain running tips which will aid you on your journey to becoming a mountain runner.
Tip 1: Get mountain wise.
If you’re a trail runner its possible you’ve never needed to use a map or compass and wont necessarily know the mountain environment or how to navigate. Mountain running enables you to get off the hill quickly when the conditions change unexpectedly, but your speed can also quickly get you into trouble. Make sure you understand how to use a map and compass and spend some time hiking in the mountains so that you can understand how the weather and environment works. Getting lost when your exposed and carrying minimal kit could put you at serious risk or hypothermia or worse, so make sure you know how to get around in the mountains.
Tip 2: Walking is allowed.
The lines between hiking and mountain running are often blurred but keeping moving is the aim of the game. Walking the uphill’s can be better for you than running as it reduces the chance of lactic build up in your legs which can cause fatigue. Try and walk uphill with more purpose than you would when hiking and try to find a pace that enables you to walk up steep uphill’s without the need for stopping.
Tip 3 Get your footwear right.
Go to any fell or mountain race and you will notice everybody has their own preference of footwear and why they wear that shoe. Some shoes work well on rock and others work well on wet grass; rarely will you find a shoe that performs well at both. I use the Salomon Speedcross 5 as they work well on the mixed conditions I find in Snowdonia, but they don’t perform well on hard trail. Ive previously used the Inov8 trailroc shoes which were a great shoe for hard trail but were really sloppy in muddy conditions.
Some trail centres like Coed Y Brenin offer test shoes which you can try before you buy. Its worth trying a few shoes so that you can get the right fit for your foot but also test out the rubber to make sure it does what you want it to do.
Tip 4: Nutrition
Knowing your body and what fuel to carry is really important. I often carry natural food or fruit bars like Graze or Cliff as they are less sugar loaded than gels and keep my energy levels on a more even keel. I find if I eat to much sugar while running my energy levels rise and fall more abruptly which can leave your mind on an emotional rollercoaster. For longer distances try sandwiches and fruit as they have more complex carbs which allow slower release into the body.
Tip 5: Learn the art of running downhill.
Trusting your feet on the downhill is crucial to becoming a confident downhill runner. Try practicing on steps near your home or find a short section of rocky trail that you can practice on where the consequences are low. Try not to look at your feet as much and instead focus a little further ahead so you can anticipate moves and where to put your feet. It takes time to become confident at running downhill so don’t push it too quickly. It takes months to build up that confidence but seconds to lose it if you have a fall. Take your time!
About the author.
Matt Cooper is a full time Mountaineering Instructor, mountain runner and Montane ambassador who lives on the North Wales coast with his partner Kathryn. Matt teaches navigation at all levels and instructs and coaches mountain running in Snowdonia throughout the year. Matt has also contributed to articles in summit magazine the official magazine of the British Mountaineering Council and has wrote articles.
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