When Skyrunning was launched in the UK it captured my imagination and excitement for the hills and mountains, providing a area of challenge for me that I felt had been missing, with the incredible landscape available around the UK this provided a opportunity to race in some of the more extreme parts, yet still on routes that were marked and in the company of some amazing athletes.
Here are five tips to get you on your way to be a better Mountain runner:
1.Get used to extremely long and very steep climbs – both up and down. It sounds obvious but really is key because with the best will in the world that short stepped run will be reduced to a walk, so don’t be afraid to practice hard, steep walking – The best place to practice is in the mountains but can still be done on any short climbs, long flights of stairs – anything you can find that is steep. Carrying extra weight, i.e. a large rucksack will help with building strength.
2. Feel confident on technical terrain, not necessarily fast, but comfortable. The more relaxed you stay the less energy you waste. Again time in the terrain helps, though you can build up some foundation first with ankle strengthening and co-ordination exercises. Take things a step further than just balancing on one foot: stand on a wobble cushion and do various movements such as one legged squats to introduce instability. Single leg jumps on and off a box are great too. My favourite is using the slackline as this works so many different elements and can help reduce that disco leg you may get traversing Crib Goch!
3. Have at least a basic level of mountain skills. I feel that it is important I take responsibility for my own safety, not just for during the race but when out training. The mountains are inherently dangerous and we all get (slightly) lost or disorientated from time to time. There are some great courses run by the FRA (Fell Running Association) for navigation, independent training days/camps or you could join other more experienced people for recce days and learn from them. Some race organisations offer these so look out for details on their own websites or pages.
4. Prepare yourself for the mountains mentally. Being in this environment can throw up some additional challenges; you can suddenly be alone in the fog thousands of feet up, or climbing non-stop hands on knees for over a hour, down a quick descent then back on another hour long climb, so progress can feel slow and painful. Be ready for these situations, be honest with yourself and what your fears are, imagine how you will feel and think through how you will overcome any negative thoughts – visualise and keep that end goal and sense of achievement at the front of your mind.
5. Don’t just run but climb. Some of the races require climbing or scrambling, and, in a race situation the adrenaline is pumping and you are suddenly changing mind-set from runner to climber. Spend some time practicing the specific climbs or more challenging ones – obviously there is another layer of safety and planning required here so take a guide or someone experienced enough if you need it. There are also lots of indoor climbing walls in the UK so why not have some fun indoors over the winter.
There we go, a few things I have learnt along the way, i am sure there are loads of other things people have found that helped them to prepare for such events – very interested to hear those if anyone wants to share anything or has any questions.