You have to learn to walk before you can run, so the cliché goes. But try telling that to legions of long-distance runners who take on the world’s greatest trekking trails at a much faster pace.
To add to the challenge, many of these routes lead up mountains and across rough terrain, making that feeling of victory at the end even more euphoric. You’ll have pushed yourself to the limits and taken in some gorgeous scenery into the bargain.
Read on for smart advice on some of the top destinations, the training benefits of long-distance running and the best kit available for trail and mountain running.
For the last 26 years, Malaysia’s Mount Kinabulu has played host to the Climbathon. Originally created as a training exercise for alpine rescue personnel, the event has blossomed into a 23 kilometre international scramble halfway up, around and down this 4095 metre high behemoth.
Competitors take the flat but strenuous uphill road from the Kinabulu Park Headquarters to a hill station some 2760.3 metres above sea level. From there, it’s downhill almost all the way through the montane grasslands of Mesilau Nature Resort and the fairways of Mount Kinabalu Golf Course. The finish line is in the traditional native village of Kundasang.
Now famous for more than just being the home of Nike, Eugene, Oregon is rapidly becoming the US’s top speed-trekking region. The 30-mile McKenzie River Trail whisks you past lava features, primordial woodland and fragrant waterfalls.
A popular recovery run, the nearby Pre’s Trail is mostly woodchip and thus easier on the joints. It helpfully criss-crosses with a number of other trails in the handsome and well-tended Alton Baker Park.
Trail and mountain running offer considerable physiological benefits that are transferrable to numerous other sports, including more orthodox forms of running.
It’s manifestly good for you to tone your muscles with resistance, build up power for explosive bursts of speed and boost your general endurance.
Treat Your Feet
There are so many mens running shoes on the market that this can cause a headache about what to buy to prevent leg ache.
Runner’s World has called the Asics Gel-Trail Attack 7 a ‘versatile off-road trainer’ whose double-layer mesh holds the heel in place over treacherous territory. Its sticky outsole grips rock beautifully but tends to get bunged up with snow and mud.
For rough weather running, the INOV-8 Roclite 312 GTX’s cushioned Gortex repels the wet and its well-spaced tread avoids mud-cling like a dream.
Road runners will be drawn to the ultra-breathability and interior arch support of the Saucony ProGrid Xodus, shoes that combine speed and traction for hard, flat ground. These work off-road too, thanks to the grippiness of the Vibram sole, but only on relatively terra firma.
Those new to the sport are advised to pick up a pair of Adidas Response Trails. The control-oriented torsion system and extra cushioning will see you safely across most terrains, but can feel a tad spongy at elevation.