Trail running in America & mountain races in Europe

Are there really any differences when it comes to racing in Europe & America? Runners from both sides of the Atlantic have their say about trail running on both continents.

When Michel Poletti, president of ITRA, spoke recently at the presentation of the Spain Ultra Cup about what type of international race organizations would de targeted for future membership, he affirmed that the ITRA would be particularly hoping to attract “organisations with long-distance races taking place in natural scenery“. Although this definition may sound a little vague, it is in fact quite difficult to find a common denominator that might aptly describre races taking place on both sides of the Atlantic.

Are we talking about the same kind of race on both continents? It doesn’t seem that way from what some of our top runners have to say. In any case, surely the “variations on a theme” are what make this sport so appealing, right?  What are the differences anyway, between trail running & mountain running? According to the ISF, “The difference lies in the terminology itself: trail & montain“. 

ISF

We’ve asked some of the top runners about what it is that makes racing different on both sides of the Atlantic. Here are their answers, together with our conclusions:

American races, much faster

The main difference, which everyone seems to agree on, is the greater technical difficulty of races in Europe and the faster speed of races run in the US.

Tofol

As Tòfol Castanyer points out, this means that“American races are more runnable” suggesting that faster ultra-distance racers have the advantage, as opposed to mountain running specialists.

This difference has already been discussed in our article in Spanish, la diferencia entre trail running, fell running y carrera de montaña. In the US the sport is called “trail running“, whereas in Europe, terms such asmountain runningskyrunning or fell running (UK) are used. The term “trail running” obviously refers to the kind of track or path followed, whereas in Europe it’s all about “mountains“. Whereas “trail running” doesn’t necessarily imply elevation gains.

Heras

In Europe the elevation gains are usually greatersays Miguel Heras,I think that this difference is motivating for us Europeans when we go there, as it is for the Americans when they come over to Europe to compete.

Stricter rules in the US

Many of the races held in the US run through national parks, which follow a stricter legislation than we’re used to in Europe, regarding how hikers & runners should use the footpaths or trails. All these measures are imposed with the greater benefit of protecting the lanscape & natural habitat of the species found in the parks. This means that anyone wondering off the trail will be sanctioned (usually with disqualification), something that Europeans are simply not used to.

Emelie

As Emelie Forsberg jokes, “I think it´s like with everything in America; trail races aren’t any different you know“. Rules are rules!

In Europe, things are very different, where, in most cases,the race course simply follows the most direct route across the mountain.

Andy

In Scotland“, for example, says Andy Symonds,” the hills are steep, there are great open spaces without trees, there is grass and bog all over the place. The result is that fell races go straight through fields and up and down hills. Race routes are driven by the shortest lines rather than by path networks”.

Consecuently, European trail runners find that they have to change their whole approach to racing, as Silvia Serafini states, “I know that in the US there are very strict rules about ‘shortcuts‘. You are out of the race if you don’t follow exactly the signed trail“. Kilian Jornet can testify to this, as he was stripped of his prize money and course record, in last year’s Speedgoat 50k for cutting switchbacks.

In Europa, it’s more competitive

So what’s Dakota Jones take on the subject? He interestingly points out that “ In America, trail running came out of a culture of hiking and mountain climbing that has its roots in solitude and escape“. Whereas, “Europeans accept mountain running more and are allowed to have more people in their races, so the scene is much more professional than anywhere else”. ” When Americans race, they are almost afraid to say they are racing, because they don’t want to betray traditional values about the purity of the sport“.

Dakota

Sportswear

In an episode of Kilian´s Quest we can see how the young Catalonian runner meets up with running legend, Pablo Vigil. It’s interesting to compare how the two are dressed; Kilian with his specialized gear  –Suunto GPS heart rate monitor, Salomon technical shorts & training shoes, while Pablo Vigilcan be found wearing the traditional runners sorts and a pair of Nike road trainers. Although this is a simple anecdote, it does undeline the point that, in general, European runners seem to get moredressed up for the occasion!

Anna Frost comments that “Clothing differs…with fashion and trends. Euro wearing more technical lycra and USA wearing looser fitting comforts.

Frosty

What’s in common? People, volunteers, the spirit of racing

There seems to be a common agreement among runners that there is one characteristic to be found on both sides of the Atlantic: the spirit of running, be it trail running in the US or fell running (UK), mountain running or skyrunning in Europe, “our mutual appreciation for the mountains & outdoor spaces”, says Alfredo Gil, Spain’s national champion. “I think we all have that in common“.

Alfredo

American, Stevie Kremer, also emphasises this point & recognizes the efforts of all the people, behind the scenes, who support the races: “both have incredible supporters and volunteers, without which these races would never be successful!”

Stevie
It seems that, as more and more runners make the jump, from one continent to another, things are changing. As Jonathan Wyatt observes, ” We see a lot of North American runners who have learnt a lot from the European style of trail running and they are excited to bring some of these elements to North America including the more technical running trails“.

Jono

Finally, let’s just remember the words of Silvia Serafini, who defines the atmosphere of our sport perfectly, “I can’t really choose which I like most, racing in America or in Europe. I love the atmosphere, the welcome of the people, which I have found on both continents“.

Silvia

 

LINKS & CREDIT:

© Escrito por Nigel John Wilson / David Clavera / Pablo Cantó

This article is a re post from : corredordemontana.com

It is reproduced with the full approval of corredordemontana.com and Nigel John Wilson and has not been altered or adjusted in anyway. The original article is available HERE should you wish to view it.

It is also available in Spanish HERE

All content (inc images) ©corredordemontana.com

 

Skyrunning UK – the first steps

Skyrunninguk logo sign offIt has been a long season… the 2013 Skyrunner World Series came to a close in early October on the shores of Lake Garda at the impressive Limone Extreme race. The Skyrunner ULTRA title had been concluded just weeks earlier in Vail, Colorado at the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) but at Limone Extreme, VK and SKY champions were crowned confirming the closure of an incredible 2013 season.

It would be nice to sit back, relax and reflect. Oh no, time stands till for nobody, the 2014 Skyrunner World Series needs to be confirmed and announced, in addition, 2014 has the Skyrunning World Championships taking place in Mont-Blanc (here) at the Mont-Blanc Marathon weekend. Champions, male and female will be announced for the distances of VK, SKY and ULTRA.

An exciting year awaits!

Luis Alberto Hernando at Matterhorn Ultraks

Luis Alberto Hernando at Matterhorn Ultraks

The growth os Skyrunning has exploded in the past 2-years, the catalyst, Transvulcania La Palma in May 2012. Arguably, the worlds ‘best’ descended on a small island in the Canaries and although the ULTRA distance was new to Skyrunning, a transformation was made and suddenly, Skyrunning became the next big thing! The foresight of Marino Giacometti (President ISF) and Lauri Van Houten (Executive Director ISF) was rewarded with a big thumbs up from all who attended!

La Palma, Transvulcania La Palma 2012 ©iancorless.com

La Palma, Transvulcania La Palma 2012 ©iancorless.com

Skyrunning today is growing and at an alarming rate. The Skyrunner World Series has now established itself as one of ‘the’ series to do and we are seeing this reflected in the diversity of the nations taking part but also the diversity in the athletes. We are seeing many runners participating in several disciplines and in certain scenarios, such as Kilian Jornet, we are also seeing them crowned champion in multiple disciplines.

We are not only seeing the ‘regulars’ perform. Skyrunning are being rewarded with new athletes and teams, take a look at Arc’teryx and inov-8. They have taken the bull by the horns and seized an opportunity, not only have they created teams to perform at this high level but they have created apparel and shoes that work in this demanding sport. In 2013, Arc’teryx had UK based athlete, Tessa Hill create some stunning results in the VK and SKY distance, in addition, inov-8 had great success with UK based Anna Lupton and with Alex Nichols (USA) who placed third on the Skyrunner SKY World Series podium.

Tessa Hill and Anna Lupton, Limone Extreme ©iancorless.com

Tessa Hill and Anna Lupton, Limone Extreme ©iancorless.com

For years, the UK have provided a hard core of athletes who have raced and won on this world stage; Angela Mudge, Ricky Lightfoot, Andy Symonds, Tom Owens and so on… in many respects, these UK runners progressed from a minority sport in the UK, ‘Fell Running’ and participated in a minority sport in Europe called ‘Skyrunning’.

That is all changing and the time is now right, for the UK to progress and not only create a UK based series but also create stimulus within the UK to encourage UK based runners to travel to Europe and farther afield to experience Skyrunning on a global scale.

Salomon athlete, Andy Symonds sums it up very well,

Skyrunning was born in Italy, twenty years ago. For me it’s always represented the best of European and until recently – mainly Italian – racing. It’s about racing high up, on real mountains, on real mountain terrain. The fun comes from the race courses which go to summits, along exposed ridges, gaining incredible views, and from moving fast in a competitive environment over this sort of terrain.

Andy Symonds Trofeo Kima ©iancorless.com

Andy Symonds Trofeo Kima ©iancorless.com

The UK may lack the altitude of the Italian Alps, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do the same thing on our own moderately sized mountains, fells and hills! It’s great to see the sport branching out of Italy, with national series now launching in France, Australia/NZ the UK and no doubt shortly elsewhere.

The future of proper mountain running will probably lie in the hands of the Skyrunning Associations and I’ll be supporting that growth and hoping to help guide things in a good direction!’

Andy is right! the time is perfect.

Welcome to Skyrunning UK

It is early days for Skyrunning UK and 2014 will almost certainly be a transformative year. We are well aware that Skyrunning in the UK will be a challenge… we don’t have too many 2000m+ peaks! However, as Andy says, ‘The UK may lack the altitude of the Italian Alps, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do the same thing on our own moderately sized mountains, fells and hills!’

To that end, an athlete commission has been created to help guide the sport within the UK from a grass roots level. We already have established and respected runners signed up and confirmed:

  • Ricky Lightfoot (Salomon)
  • Anna Lupton (inov-8)
  • Tom Owens (Salomon)
  • Ben Abdelnoor (inov-8)
  • Andy Symonds (Salomon)

Within the coming weeks, several other athletes will be added to the commission and this will guarantee that the direction of Skyrunning in the UK is not only in good hands but will also consider the well established traditions of fell and trail running.

Skyrunning UK will work in harmony and respect existing races and traditions within the UK.

To interact and get involved, please make sure you:

  • ‘Like’ the Skyrunning UK Facebook page HERE
  • ‘Follow’ on Twitter HERE
  • and sign up to ‘Follow’ our website HERE