Have you noticed the shift that has occurred in recent years? You can be a trail runner, sure, but are you a mountain runner?
Trail running is pretty much anything that ventures off structured, tarred roads. Beaches, grassy banks, rocky paths, jeep track and mountain trails all qualify as trail running. But mountain running is a specialised arena of trail. Mountain runners talk vert, bag peaks and measure their effort in metres gained rather than seconds shaved. Those outliers who will, by choice, disappear in to rocky wilderness areas where a night spent in a small dilapidated hut at 3000m above sea level and sub-zero temperatures will have them frothing, and instagramming up a veritable storm for days after they have returned to civilisation, and restored their core temperatures. They have secret routes, belong to protected clubs. And, I’m not calling them “the unwashed…” but those truckers have been around, bru.
When they aren’t whooping it up across a rocky ridge, they walk among us. You’ll know them by the 1000-yard stare they get during work meetings, or the way they nod sagely in the direction of any rocky outcrop. They talk to the stones, serious.
You can, on a whim and with a degree of fitness, sign up for a trail race. But not for a mountain race. Mountain races have big changes in elevation, long uphill and downhill sections, and little or no flat running. Running in mountainous areas carries inherent risks, and there is a list of tried and tested kit considered compulsory, whether you are training or racing.
The Bos Sport Mountain Challenge Series, Amplified by Jaybird is a collection of three gnarly events that feature three of the Cape’s iconic mountain ranges. The last in the series is the Marloth Mountain Challenge, and it takes place on 7 October 2018. The organisers have saved the beast for last.
If you are considering Marloth as your step up in Mountain running this year, here are a few tips.
It’s not a hike, but…
There is zero shame in power hiking. Master the art of walking with intent. Long, powerful steps are best for moderate gradients, while shorter, quicker strides will take you up a steeper gradient more efficiently. Settle your hands on your quads or knees and power hike your way to the top.
What goes up…
Descending, when done correctly, can lead to a significant advantage over fellow runners with poor technique. Look up! By looking a few metres ahead your brain will automatically take your body on the optimal downward lines. You will also give yourself more time to change speed or trajectory. The pros always say “just run” and for many of us that is exactly the opposite of what we are programmed to do. Fling our bodies down a mountain side, at speed? Hold up! But they are pros, and they are right. Get off the brakes, lean in to the descent and your quads will thank you as you motor down with added speed and efficiency.
You can master all the techniques of a Killian Jornet wannabe, but it will not help a bit if you do not fuel and hydrate effectively. Use your long training runs to try new running snacks, as we all prefer and perform differently on a variety of fuel. Most runners will recommend a combination of gels, liquid calories and some solid food. Sip on fluid regularly, and ensure that a combination of water and electrolytes form part of your hydration plan.
And then it might sound obvious, but the very best way to prepare to run hard and long in the mountains, is to run hard and long in the mountains! Time on the legs is key to managing your journey out there, and the closer you can get to the kind of terrain you’ll be racing on, the better.
Entries for Helderberg and Marloth Mountain Challenge are available online. Next thing you know you’ll be saying things like “how’s that vert, hey” whilst wearing a grubby trucker. You won’t look back.
Words by Kim Stephens