Trail Running 101: How to Run Uphill

Now, if your stride length starts to shorten to the point where it feels like you’re running in place, you’re no longer able to land with your whole foot on the trail, and you’re breathing hard enough that the taste of pennies starts to flood your mouth, consider switching over to a power hike. Hiking taps into more muscular endurance than running, allowing your cardiovascular system to catch up while you continue to move uphill with a longer stride and a lowered cadence. Your upper body should reflect this form shift as well. Instead of continuing to pump your arms, think about using your hands to drive your thighs or the tops of your knees into the ground on each stride. This will naturally cause your torso to fold forward a bit, so make sure to keep your back level, keeping your diaphragm open.

Depending on how variable the gradient of the climb you’re on is, you might find yourself switching back and forth between these two techniques. Give yourself permission to slip into the one that feels most comfortable, because in most cases, that’ll also likely be the most efficient.

Length & Context

Whether you’re into quick runs when you can fit them in or all-day epics, length and context matter when determining how to approach terrain and effort. While they might not seem that relatable, looking at a few famous ultra-distance races provides us with some great examples of this.

The Hardrock 100 — a storied race in the US mountain running scene that boasts similar stats as UTMB — is run on a course defined by its climbs. One of its most daunting begins in the town of Ouray, Colorado (7,792 ft) and continues over the next 9 miles up to nearly 13,000 ft of elevation. Now, compare that to the average length of a climb on the Lake Sonoma 50’s unrelenting course in Northern California, which is made up of hundreds of jagged rises no more than a quarter mile long, but enough in number to net the race over 10,000 ft of cumulative elevation gain. The disparity in distance between the two examples warrants two very separate approaches.