This last winter, we spent about five months in New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Colorado. During that time, Shelly and I have run in mountains almost exclusively. That experience has been a tremendous learning opportunity. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:
- Running efficiency is incredibly important, especially running uphill. Short, quick, relaxed steps make it MUCH easier to climb several miles up a mountain.
- When running downhill, slightly shifting my weight backward a little bit makes a huge difference. My downhill running average pace has dropped from about 11-12 minute miles to around 7-8 minute miles.
- When I run down switchbacks, I can run faster by drifting to the outside as I enter a turn, then cut back sharply to the inside as I enter the apex, then drift to the outside as I exit the apex. It looks something like this:
Here’s the European version:
- Doing hill repeats is an adequate substitute for flat-ground speed work.
- Crosstraining helps. Exercises like squats and lunges help strengthen legs for both climbing and descending. Carrying things like slosh tubes or sand bags in training also makes a huge difference.
- Rock-laden trails eat my shoes, especially when running fast downhill. The average lifespan of my shoes went from about 1500 miles to about 600.
- Altitude requires greater water consumption.
- The terrain makes a huge difference. Rocky technical trails are much slower than mostly dirt-covered trails.
- The scenery at the top of a summit never gets old. I would give up running ultras and running barefoot before I give up running in mountains.
If you get the opportunity to do any training in mountains, TAKE IT! Even road runners would benefit.