Competition tips for mountain runners

13. June 2017

A mountain run is different to a normal run on flat terrain. You should take note of the following racing tactics.

View the route Profile

Acquainting yourself with the route profile is extremely important! Get this information from the organiser as early as possible (often to be found on the event home page) and commit it to memory. The distribution of steep and flat sections on the route is of particular interest. On both shorter mountain runs and mountain marathons the last section is quite often the steepest. In the case of the Jungfrau Marathon, for example, the first half to Lauterbrunnen is still very moderate – but then it suddenly gets very steep. Try to incorporate similar steep sections into your training to get a feel for the gradient and find out at which speed you can run on which ascent.

Warm up well

Before a mountain run you should warm up very carefully and prepare your body as well as muscles, ligaments and tendons. It makes sense to do a warm-up run of 15 to 25 minutes in total. Incorporate short sprint runs as well and stretch your calf muscles. Depending on the profile, they will soon get very stressed once the race kicks off.

Adjust your step length

Selecting a suitable step length helps to save energy. As a rule of thumb: the steeper it gets, the smaller the step length should be. On gradients steeper than 20 percent, walking can help you to move more efficiently, as can putting your hands on your thighs to assist you, for example. With an efficient walking technique, you wont lose any ground (or only marginally) compared to those still running, but you will prevent the muscles from over acidifying and can keep your heart rate somewhat lower.

Take care going downhill

You should approach the downhill passages with particular care, especially at the beginning of a competition. The increased adrenaline in your body and as a result, greater willingness to take risks, increases the danger of twisting your ankle and any heavy blows to the muscles due to too large steps will avenge you later during the race. For that reason, you should go downhill with short, active steps, a higher step frequency and layback slightly to try to cushion the blow. Give the trail your full concentration – even though the panorama is so beautiful.

Devise a schedule

In order to devise a proper schedule for the competition, you should be able to roughly estimate how long you need for the individual sections of the route. Since this depends on the altitude difference and the ground, it is difficult to devise a universal formula. However, a rough rule of thumb can help you: compared with running on flat terrain, running 100 metres difference in altitude corresponds to an additional distance of about 600 to 700 metres. For example: if in a mountain run you cover a distance of 1000 metres and climb 100 metres difference in altitude, then you can take the time that you would need to run around 1600 to 1700 metres on flat terrain as your approximate running time. Or in other words: multiply your average time to run one kilometre by a factor of 1.6 or 1.7 for such passages.

Put on warm clothes when you get to the finish

Don’t forget in the euphoria of passing the finishing line that your body is quite exhausted and now primarily needs warmth, fluids, and rest. Therefore, make sure that you have warm, dry clothes to hand in the finish area. For this purpose, most of the organisers organise for your clothes to be transported to the finish area. Just like the races on flat terrain, make sure you drink enough fluids right after the run and also quickly replenish your carbohydrate reserves (fluids or solid food), so as to ensure rapid regeneration.

Foto: Alphafoto