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Mountain Running

What is Mountain Running?

Running is a means of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move swiftly on foot. Mountain Running is a discipline of long-distance running that takes place in mountain topography. Mountain Running can be defined by two philosophies: 1) the appreciation of the joy and benefits of moving rapidly on foot through natural mountain landscapes, and/or 2) the athletic pursuit of the fastest possible speed on foot over a given mountain route, given considerations of risk and safety.

As with normal running, two feet leave the ground at regular points in the gait, however mountain running may also employ techniques of walking, scrambling, climbing, hopping, jumping, skipping, leaping, sliding, glissading, wading, post-holing, bushwhacking, and swimming for short distances. Mountain runners strive to apply the most efficient technique to the terrain and conditions while also taking into account their own personal capabilities and preferences.

Although mountain running can be done on asphalt or dirt road surfaces, this activity is more often enjoyed on established mountain trails or in rugged terrain where such trails do not exist. Mountain Running activities typically start and finish from points in civilization such as a road, trailhead, lift station, basecamp, or lodging facility and do not require an overnight bivouac in the mountains. Mountain Running activities can be organized competitive athletic events, or casual personal outings. Navigation, routefinding, survival, self-sufficiency, and general mountain sense are important skills for long distance Mountain Running, especially outside of organized and supported race events.

Some Mountain Running itineraries may demand certain mountaineering skills and very lightweight mountaineering equipment. Mountain Runners may use specialized crampons that work on lightweight footwear or a small aluminum ice axe for short snowy sections. The following are generally considered to be outside the realm of Mountain Running: planned multiday journeys carrying bivouac or camping gear, use of a rope, harness, or other climbing security hardware; use of skis, snowshoes, watercraft, or other modes of travel not by foot; terrain that prevents one from achieving steady, rapid, forward progress, such as difficult rock climbing terrain, glacier obstacles/hazards, dense brush, etc.

 

MOUNTAIN RUNNING INFORMATIONAL VIDEOS
 

Step Chopping with Ice Axe

Relatives of Mountain Running:

Trail Running - Specifically related to running on trails. Trail Running may or may not be done in mountain topography. Mountain Running outings usually involve a significant amount of Trail Running but travel may or may not be exclusively on trails. The term Trail Running typically refers to the running surface more than the topographic setting or context of the activity.

Ultrarunning - Also known as Ultramarathoning. Describes running distances longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). Organized ultrarunning race events known as ultra distance races or ultras, for short, are common and growing in popularity. These races are usually a minimum of 50 kilometers (31.07 miles). Ultrarunning may or may not be organized as a competitive event, and may or may not involve mountain topography. Most Ultrarunners train for and participate in competitive long-distance running events.

Skyrunning - Skyrunning is a racing discipline of Mountain Running that takes place above 2,000m where the incline exceeds 30% and the climbing difficulty does not exceed II° grade. Ski poles and hands may be used to aid progress. The International Skyrunning Federation was formed in 2008 in Italy and most Skyrunning race events are in Europe, but there are also major events held in the Americas and Asia.

Fell Running - Fell Running is an historical predecessor to Mountain Running. Fell running races started in the fells and hill country of Northern Britain's Lake District, which first gained widespread popularity in the 19th century. The tradition of these races continues today. These are generally adventurous competitions that, in addition to running in rugged, and sometimes boggy terrain, may demand skills in navigation, orienteering, and sometimes require carrying specified survival equipment. These events exclude any rock climbing or travel on loose, unstable slopes. Outside of these races and the United Kingdom, this term is rarely used for similar Mountain Running endeavors elsewhere.

Cross Country Running - Cross Country Running is an athletic racing event that has its origins in prehistoric times. It was first formalized into national competition in Britain in 1876 and International Championship competition in 1903. Running surfaces are generally earth (e.g. trail, dirt road) or ideally grass, and race courses are well marked. Courses are a standard of 5 meters wide to allow passing and are usually between 1.75 and 2km long, featuring rolling hills with smooth curves and short straights.

Adventure Racing - A descendant of Mountain Running racing, Adventure Racing combines at least 2 different endurance disciplines typically including: Trail or Mountain Running, Fastpacking, orienteering, navigation, mountain biking, paddling, climbing, and/or technical ropework. Sometimes races include such unconventional modes as: in-line skating, paragliding, horse/camel riding, caving, canyoneering, and more. Races are team events of various lengths, lasting from a few hours to several days.

Peak Bagging - Peak Bagging is a term for mountain climbing where the principal goal is to reach the summit or a specific set of summits. A difference between Peak Bagging and regular mountain climbing is that in Peak Bagging the summit is usually one of multiple high points of prominence on a list that one has made it a personal goal, or perhaps obsession to achieve. These lists may be published or self-generated, but either way, Peak Baggers tend to make "bagging" the summits on their lists the primary reason for going to the mountains. Routes and styles are secondary to the goal of simply standing on the top. Regional mountain clubs generate many of these peak lists. The "Seven Summits" a list of the highest peaks on each of the seven continents is among the most infamous examples, as is the "State Highpoints" list and the "14'ers" lists in the U.S., and the 4000m peak list in the Alps. The term Peak Bagging can also apply to lesser peaks that typical hikers and Mountain Runners can ascend to without technical skills and equipment. Mountain Runners sometimes take up Peak Bagging as a speed challenge with a summit highpoint, or in an effort to summit as many nearby peaks as possible in a single outing or ridge traverse.

Speed Climbing - Speed Climbing can be defined as climbing technical snow, ice, and/or rock routes as quickly as possible in a very lightweight style. Technical climbing terrain is loosely defined as 4th class rock climbing / UIAA grade III / French PD or harder. Aid climbing is also considered technical. This activity poses significant risks due to critical dependence on personal skill and abilities, and generally little margin for error if anything goes wrong. Terrain is often highly exposed to mountain hazards such as falling, rockfall, icefall, avalanche, crevasses, and mountain weather. Speed climbers generally try to avoid standard safety systems to decrease weight and increase speed. Less time on a mountain route can reduce the overall exposure time to risk, which in many cases makes climbing slowly with increased safety systems more risky than climbing quickly and continuously without them. Successful Speed Climbing requires a very high level of skill and confidence to move efficiently in technical terrain, as well as a willingness to accept the risks of climbing without conventional safety systems.

Fastpacking - see What is Fastpacking?