Record numbers of people are running 5K, 10K and even half and full marathons these days. But how many runners out there have participated in a trail running race? Combine the beauty of hiking and the great outdoors with running competition!
The La Sportiva Vail Mountain Trail Running Series, Colorado’s premier trail running series, is celebrating its 15th season. The seven-race series runs May through September and includes distances ranging from a 5k (3.2 miles) to a half marathon (13.1 miles). The race series was named Best Race Series in 2005 and 2008, the Vail Half Marathon named Most Scenic Race in 2010 and the Vail HillClimb was honored as the best non-ultra race in 2011 by readers of Colorado Runner magazine.
Courses vary from single track trails winding through aspen forests to dirt roads at the top of the mountain. The series includes races of 5K, 10K, and half marathon, providing an opportunity for runners of all ages and skill levels.
Why should you run? Jamie Gunion from the Vail Recreation District says, “The views are spectacular. You’ll encounter nature at its best, wildflowers, panoramic views of the Holy Cross and Gore Mountain ranges, all the while challenging yourself. As a runner myself, my favorite is the 10@10,000 feet 10k. You’re at the top of the mountain and the views are spectacular, plus the downhill leading back to the finish is a blast. It’s not too steep and you can really just let yourself fly.”
See a list of all races throughout the summer at the La Sportiva Vail Trail Running Series to pick one out that fits your ability!
Running on mountain trails requires extra preparation for runners who have only run road races at lower altitudes. Exercising at 8,000 to over 10,000 feet (2400 m to over 3000 m) can leave you short of breath.
Trail running and gaining altitude is harder than running on flat ground. A 5K feels more difficult when you gain elevation. Tip: It is ok to walk more strenuous sections of uphill to save your strength!
Many runners find cross training, adding faster pace and intervals to their usual race preparation, helps to prepare themselves for a race in the mountains. Tip: Find a hill along the route of your next run, and run up and down it a few times. The extra workout on your feet and calves will help!
Gunion recommends, “Drink plenty of water, especially if you’re coming from a lower elevation. Start off slow and slowly build speed. Some of the races have steep accents and so it’s okay to walk. Sometimes it’s actually faster than trying to run some of the steeper sections. Once you get to where the course flattens out and rolls, let your strides go and enjoy yourself. On technical downhills, we encourage folks to take their time and watch for roots and rocks. ”
Have you run a trail running race? Have questions about how to prepare for one? Leave your comments or questions below, and hopefully we’ll see you at the finish line soon!