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Cross Training For Runners

How To Start Mountain Running (+ 4 Mountain Races to try)

5 Mins read

Looking for the best mountain running tips? Then you’ve come to the right place.

though running on a mountain 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 reach 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 is a welcome change to the usual weekend plod.

What’s more?

Tackling mountains makes your training more fun and helps take your running performance to a whole new level.

How To Start Mountain Running

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.

Sounds great?

Let’s get started.

Get The Right Mountain Running Gear

Heading into the mountains for a run differs 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 a small snack or energy bar and enough water. In addition, I’d recommend using a small fanny pack and/or waist belt for short jaunts.
  • Sun protection. Protect yourself with sunscreen, but 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. 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 become more in tune with your needs over time.

Pace Yourself Running Up A Mountain

Your mountain running pace is likely slower overall and much less consistent from the mile to a 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 quicker on flat-ish sections on well-worth tracks or paths, but take your time on steep and technical terrains.

Slow down or speed it up as it feels right.

Here’s how often you should run per week.

Master The Technical Terrains

Getting into mountain running isn’t complicated, but there’s more technique involved than you might realize.

Think of mountain running as an obstacle-course run, an 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 tired.

The same goes for steep hills, both up and down.

Power hike if the slope is over 20 degrees and when going up a long trail.

This should also help you up there with technical footing and altitude.

You can also develop your ability 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.

how to start running on mountains

Stay Safe On The Mountain

If this is your first time running in the mountains, please pay attention to safety.

By their very nature, mountainous paths are 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 return time. God forbid, if you get 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.

Try A Mountain Race

Mountain racing is ideal for testing your mettle in endurance and long-distance racing.

Taking place on the world’s toughest and most challenging terrains, these races are the pinnacle of fitness tests and the best way to push your physical and mental resolve to the breaking point.

Here is a list of five of the toughest mountain races in the U.S.

Breck Crest

Organized by the team at Maverick Sports, the Breck Crest is a running event that features a variety of races of different lengths: a 10K, a 13.3-mile half marathon, and a 23-mile beast mountain marathon course (called a marathon thanks to the challenging terrain).

Breck Crest takes place in the heart of the pristine Ten Mile Range in the Rocky Mountains above Breckenridge, Colorado. The racecourse traverses over the magnificent high alpine terrain, full of breathtaking mountain views, alpine lakes, and wildflowers.

Fees: The 10K costs $40, the Half $65, and the Marathon $80.

The Official Website –

Mid Mountain Marathon

Presented by ZB Sports, Mountain Trails Foundation, and Snyderville Basin Recreation, the Mid Mountain is a 26,2-mile trail running event that kicks off at Deer Valley Resort, traverses Park City Mountain Resort and the colony before descending and finishing in the Canyons base area.

The single-track racecourse begins at about 8,000 ft of elevation and peaks at about 8,400 ft, taking runners through pristine forests and the stunning views of Park City and The Canyons.

The downside is that organizers limit the number of participants to 400, so register as early as possible to snatch a spot.

Fees: 70$ to 90$.

Official Website –

Barr Trail Mountain Race (BTMR)

Organized by Team Colorado, a nonprofit organization of elite trail runners, BTMR is a 12.6-mile competitive mountain trail running event held in July at the Manitou Springs Cog Railway Train Depot, Colorado.

Runners start the race in Manitou Springs at about 6,570 ft and climb up Pikes Peaks’ iconic Barr Trail to Barr Camp (10,200 ft) before racing back and finishing off with a fast trip back to the starting line.

Fees: $55 to $80

Official Website –

Loon Mountain Race, Lincoln, N.H.

Presented by Acidotic Racing in Lincoln, New Hampshire, this race is one of the most competitive hill climb races in the U.S.

Loon Peak race will force competitors to run roughly 5,5 miles with 2,200 ft of vertical gain. The racecourse averages about 15 percent grade, with some sections of more than 40 percent.

The last mile of the race is straight up the infamous Upper Walking Boss, roughly one kilometer on a rock and grass-covered slope with angles exceeding 40 percent grade. This makes it one of the hardest and most challenging finishes in the fast-growing sport of mountain running.

Fees: $50

Official Website –

How To Start Mountain Running – The Conclusion

There you have it.

If you’re looking to make mountain running a part of your workout routine, 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.

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