Trail running

Trail running is a sport-activity which combines running, and, where there are steep gradients, hiking, that is run "on any unpaved surface".[1] It is similar to both mountain and fell running (also known as hill running). Mountain running may, however, include paved sections. Trail running normally takes place on good paths, or tracks which are relatively easy to follow, and does not necessarily involve the significant amounts of ascent, or need for navigating skills, normal in fell running.[2] Unlike road running and track running it generally takes place on hiking trails, often in mountainous terrain, where there can be much larger ascents and descents. It is difficult to definitively distinguish trail running from cross country running. In general, however, cross country is an IAAF-governed discipline that is typically raced over shorter distances.

The number of organized trail races grew 1,000% from 2008 to 2018, from 160 to more than 1,800 globally.[3] Runners often cite less impact stress compared to road running, as well as the landscape and non-urban environment, as primary reasons for preferring trail running.[4] This move to nature is also reflected in a large increase in competitors in non-traditional/off-road triathlons and adventure racing in the 2010s.[5]

Kilian Jornet, during his winning run at the 2008 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

Related activities


A growing number of people are participating in solo backcountry trail running trips, carrying an ultralight form of backpacking to allow faster speeds than with a traditional backpack.[6][7] Running while backpacking has been termed "fastpacking". These trips can be both difficult and dangerous, depending on length, weather and terrain.

Mountain and fell running

Mountain and fell running (also called hill running, particularly in Scotland) [8] are sports that combine running and racing off-road over upland country, where the gradient climbed is a significant component. Fell is a dialect word from the north west of England where it is popular–especially in the Lake District. Fell races require mountain navigation skills and participants carry survival equipment [2] Unlike trail running, the routes of fell races are often unmarked, so that competitors frequently are able to choose their own route to a checkpoint.[9]

The only difference between mountain running and trail running is that a mountain running course sometimes includes paving. It is different from fell running because, (1) courses are clearly marked and avoid dangerous sections;[10] and (2) while mountain running takes place mainly off-road, if there is significant elevation gain on the route, surfaced roads may be used.[2]

Popularity and growth

According to a 2010 special report on trail running published by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, "4.8 million Americans ages 6 and older participated in trail running in 2009."[11] This research shows a particularly heavy following in the Mountain States, the Western US, and California.

Because of the natural or serene setting, trail running is viewed as a more spiritual activity than roadside running or jogging. Another reason for growth and popularity is the continual acknowledgment of environmentalism. There is a stress among many trail-race organizers to keep these races "green" or environmentally friendly and minimize disturbance within the natural environment.[12]


Trail running
Trail running shoes now come in a wide array of styles. Many trail running shoes feature specialized materials and out-sole patterns that are designed for use on specific types of terrain.

Many trail runners use specially designed shoes that have aggressively knobby soles that are generally more rigid than road running shoes. The usually EVA compound midsole often contain a lightweight, flexible nylon plastic layer to protect the feet from puncture wounds from sharp rocks or other objects. Since trail running takes place on softer surfaces (e.g., grass, dirt) than road races, cushioning is not as important so often the shoes are less 'cushioned' than their counterparts designed for tarmac. Additionally, trail running shoes are low to the ground which provides the best stability on uneven terrain. Recently, very thick sole running shoes are gaining popularity especially in Ultra-marathons. In events over 100 miles, they were the most common type of shoe used in 2013.

Other equipment includes wicking garments, water bottles, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, gaiters, insect repellent spray, headlamps, headphones, and ivy block. Some trail runners attach lightweight crampons to the bottom of their shoes to aid with traction in the snow and on ice. An alternative way to carry water is to use a hydration bladder with drinking tube carried in a backpack, waistpack,[13] or hydration pack. Today, there are many racing vests that are lightweight alternative which allow runners the choice of reservoir based bladder or water bottles while allowing for carrying other items such as nutrition, hydration supplements and cold weather gear. Carrying the Ten Essentials may reduce the hazards inherent in wilderness travel. Some trail runners use ultra light hiking poles or trekking poles, to increase speed and stability.


Velká kunratická 2nd hill, Prague
A hill-running race in Prague

Trail running races are organised globally. Due to the relatively short history of trail running as an organised sport, there are very few established organizing bodies. For example, in the United States, the American Trail Running Association was only founded in 1996 to represent trail races in the US.[14] In the United Kingdom, the Trail Running Association was formed in 1991. The International Trail Running Association (ITRA) was founded in 2013,[15] and was first recognized by the IAAF in 2015.

Distances in races vary widely, from 5 km, to over 100 miles (161 km). Many trail races are of ultramarathon (ultra) distance. Ultras are generally accepted as having a distance of greater than 26.2 miles (42.16 km) though 50 km races are the most common 'standard' ultra distance greater than a marathon Races of similar distance often differ significantly in terms of terrain. This makes it difficult to compare performance across different courses. This is in contrast to times over standard distances in road running, such as 10 km or marathon.

Aid stations

Aid stations supplying food and beverages are commonly located every 5 to 10 kilometers along the course. Ultramarathon aid stations are often stocked with dessert foods that provide runners with quickly digestible sugars that can provide a needed boost as their glycogen levels begin to drop. Most trail races only have a single stage, where competitors are timed over the entire duration of their run, including stops at aid stations. However, trail running stage races also exist. These multiday stage races usually offer complete support and runner amenities between stages. There are, however, stage races that provide no support apart from water and medical aid, and require competitors to carry all their equipment (food, sleeping bag, change of clothes, compass). The best-known example of such races is the Marathon des Sables, that was first held in 1986.

Trail vs. road race participation limitations

Compared to road races, there are often fewer participants as number of entries is often limited. There can be a few reasons for this: narrowness of trails, national parks (where the courses are often set) may limit the number of participants via a permitting process, safety and environmental concerns. There are many popular races such as the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in Europe or the Western States Endurance Run in the United States that have been forced to limit entries due to overwhelming demand.

Some notable trail races include:




North America

South America


  • Ultra Trail Australia: 100 kilometres (62 mi), 50 kilometres (31 mi) & 22 kilometres (14 mi) in Blue Mountains, Australia.[17]
  • Five Peaks Ultramarathon:[18] 58 kilometres (Adelaide, South Australia)
  • Kepler Challenge: 60 kilometres (37 mi) also includes the Luxmore Grunt 28 kilometres (17 mi) (New Zealand)
  • Kokoda Challenge Race: 96 kilometres (60 mi)

See also


  1. ^ Lisa Jhung. "What Is Mountain Running? Runners World 13 February 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Trail Running or Fell Running?". 11 October 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  3. ^ Finn, Adharanand (2 April 2018). "When 26.2 miles just isn't enough – the phenomenal rise of the ultramarathon". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  4. ^ Jhung, Lisa. "Why Trail Running Is Good for You". Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  5. ^ "Outdoor Participation Report 2013" (PDF). Outdoor Foundation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  6. ^ Kate Siber, "Fastpacking: What is it, and why do it?" Runner's World, August 6, 2009.
  7. ^ Clint Cherepa, "Hike Fast, Sleep Hard: Are You Ready to Try Fastpacking?", August 27, 2018.
  8. ^ "An introduction to hill running - runbritain". Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  9. ^ "A 60-second guide to fell running". Runner's World. 25 March 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  10. ^ "IAAF Competition Rules 2016-2017, rule 251". Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  11. ^ "A Special Report on Trail Running". Outdoor Industry Foundation. 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  12. ^ Farago, Susan. "From the Growth of Trail Running to Environmentalism". Austin Fit Magazine. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  13. ^ "What to look for in a running backpack". Cause I Love Running. Jessica Natalie. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  14. ^ "ATRA history". American Trail Ruunning Association. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  15. ^ "Presentation and objectives". International Trail Running Association. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  16. ^ "Home". Persian Trail Runners. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  17. ^ "Ultra Trail Australia". Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  18. ^ "2018 Five Peaks Ultramarathon & SA Trail Running Festival". Retrieved 8 March 2019.

External links

Adventure running

Adventure running is the sport of running over a variety of surfaces (dirt, road, mountain, sand, snow), generally over long distances, where the racer has to overcome nature. Challenges include river crossing, scrambling, snow, extreme high or low temperatures, and high altitudes.

Whilst the origins of Adventure Running involved a non-competitive personal challenge, Adventure Running races are growing in number. The Adventure Running series in Ontario has been running for over a decade. It is the oldest and largest series of Adventure Running races in North America.

Routes are often point-to-point and scenic, a long-distance trail, or canonical for example Land's End to John O'Groats or London to Brighton.

Adventure running is less known than trail running or mountain running.

Adventure running is very similar to the running section from an adventure race ( which can include orienteering).

Examples of adventure running events include:

Great Wall Marathon

Big Five Marathon

Great Tibetan Marathon

Petra Marathon

Polar circle marathon

Rocksport Challenge

The Loco Go Big Or Go Home Challenge

Altra Running

Altra Running, commonly known as Altra, is an American company engaged in the design, development, marketing, and sales of road running, trail running, and general footwear. Altra has been ranked in the top 10 brands in “run specialty” and number 4 for trail running.In 2016, the company started to manufacture running and hiking apparel with a line of jackets, shorts, shirts, and socks. Altra developed a backless

windbreaker that can be easily slipped on over a backpack or hydration pack during long distance running.

Buff Epic Trail

The Buff Epic Trail is an international skyrunning competition held for the first time in 2016. It runs every year in Barruera (Spain) in July. The race is valid for the Skyrunner World Series.

Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail is a long-distance trail running for 486 miles (782 km) from the mouth of Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to Durango in Colorado, United States. Its highest point is 13,271 feet (4,045 m) above sea level, and most of the trail is above 10,000 feet (3,000 m). Despite its high elevation, the trail often dips below the alpine timberline to provide refuge from the exposed, storm-prone regions above.

The Colorado Trail was built and is currently maintained by the non-profit Colorado Trail Foundation and the United States Forest Service, and was connected in 1987.

Fell running

Fell running, also sometimes known as hill running, is the sport of running and racing, off-road, over upland country where the gradient climbed is a significant component of the difficulty. The name arises from the origins of the English sport on the fells of northern Britain, especially those in the Lake District. It has elements of trail running, cross country and mountain running, but is also distinct from those disciplines.

Fell races are organised on the premise that contenders possess mountain navigation skills and carry adequate survival equipment as prescribed by the organiser.

Fell running has common characteristics with cross-country running, but is distinguished by steeper gradients and upland country. It is sometimes considered as a form of mountain running, but without the smoother trails and predetermined routes often associated with mountain running.

Goodhue Pioneer State Trail

The Goodhue Pioneer State Trail is a multi-use recreational rail trail in southeastern Minnesota, USA. The 10 miles (16 km) of trail currently exist in two segments, separated by a 6-mile (9.7 km) gap. The 4-mile (6.4 km) northern segment is a paved trail running from Red Wing, Minnesota, to the Hay Creek section of the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest near Hay Creek Township. The 5.5-mile (8.9 km) southern section is a natural-surface trail running northward from the Zumbrota Covered Bridge Park in Zumbrota, Minnesota. The trail corridor follows an abandoned Chicago Great Western Railway segment that was originally built by the Duluth, Red Wing, & Southern Railroad in 1888, and abandoned in 1964 following a derailment.The trail connects to the Cannon Valley Trail in Red Wing.

IAU Trail World Championships

The IAU Trail World Championships are annual trail running World Championships, from 2007 up to 2015 was biennial, held for the first time in Huntsville, United States in 2007 and organised by International Association of Ultrarunners.

International Trail Running Association

International Trail Running Association (ITRA) is the governing body for trail running. It was formed in 2013, emerging from the 1st International Trail Running Conference held in 2012. Trail running was first recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in 2015 as a discipline of athletics.

Isabelle Guillot

Isabelle Guillot is a French athlete, born in 1961, who is a specialist in Mountain trail running, who runs for the Blagnac Sporting Athletic Club. She began to run conventional distance running athletic competitions later, in 1986, while still a young teacher. She is Co-author (with Serge Moro) of the book Courir Grandeur Nature.

Marathon du Mont Blanc

The Marathon du Mont Blanc (Mont Blanc Marathon) is an annual marathon distance (42.195 km) alpine trail-running event held in Chamonix, France. The Marathon du Mont Blanc race is the titular event but the name also refers to the group of longer and shorter distance races one or more of which competitors can compete in over a three-day period starting on the last Friday in June.

The marathon was first run in June 2003, however the shorter distance 23km du Mont-Blanc, which utilizes part of the same route as the marathon, has been run annually since 1979.

Mount Ellen (Vermont)

Mount Ellen is a 4,083-foot (1,244 m) high mountain in Vermont. It is located in the Green Mountains in Washington County.

Mount Ellen is flanked to the south by Cutts Peak (4,020 ft / 1,225 m), and to the north by Stark Mountain (3,662 ft / 1,116 m).

The area is often referred to as the Mad River Valley. Mount Ellen, together with Lincoln Peak, are home to the slopes of Sugarbush Resort. Located nearby is Mad River Glen ski area, famous for its historic single chairlift and focus on skiing.

The Long Trail, a 272-mile (438-km) hiking trail running the length of Vermont, traverses the summit ridge of Mount Ellen.

Mountain marathon

Mountain marathon is an extended form of fell running, usually over two days and often with a strong orienteering element. Competitors usually participate in teams of two, and have to carry their own food and tent. There are various classes of event (such as, for the Original Mountain Marathon - Elite, A, B, C, D and Long, Medium and Short Score).

The major events are listed below:

Marmot Dark Mountain s - held on the last weekend of January each year.

The Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon (LAMM) - held in the Scottish Highlands in June (ended in 2018).

The Scottish Mountain Marathon (SMM) - a new event in Scotland in June.

The Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon (SLMM) - held in or near the Lake District in early July.

The Mourne Mountain Marathon held in Mourne Mountains, County Down, Northern Ireland in September.

The ROC Mountain Marathon - held on the last weekend of September each year

The Original Mountain Marathon (OMM - Formerly the Karrimor International Mountain Marathon/KIMM) - held in a UK hill or mountain area in the last weekend in October.

The Swiss International Mountain Marathon (since 1976: Formerly Karrimor International Mountain Marathon / KIMM Switzerland / Mammut International Mountain Marathon / MIMM Switzerland / R'adys Mountain Marathon) - held in Switzerland in mid August. In autumn 2013 the event has changed its name again ...The Highlander Mountain Marathon which began in 2007 and was held in April at a Scottish location 'within a 2 hour drive of Inverness' has now come to an end.New competitors can receive training from various organisation for example Trail Running Scotland.The start arrangements on the two days are usually different (and are designed to encourage navigational independence).

For example, on day 1 of the SLMM a staggered start is used, with teams being sent off at 1 or 2 minute intervals, and not getting their way-cards until they are 'on the clock'.

On Day 2 the overnight leaders are often sent off half an hour before the others (a 'chasing start') and a mass start, for those more than half an hour behind overnight, then follows.

The races have provided the stimulus for various items of specialist lightweight equipment, for instance lightweight tents and multipouched running rucksacks (the 'OMM Classic Marathon 25 or 32 Sac').

Mountain running

Mountain running is a sports discipline which takes place mainly off-road in mountainous terrain, but if there is significant elevation gain on the route, surfaced roads may be used. In this it differs from fell running; also its courses are more clearly marked and avoid dangerous sections. It is a form of trail running if it is run on unpaved surfaces. Mountain running is a combination of running, jogging, and walking, depending on how steep the trail is.

It is recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations and governed by the World Mountain Running Association that since 1985 organizes world championships.

Nanticoke River

The Nanticoke River is a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay on the Delmarva Peninsula. It rises in southern Kent County, Delaware, flows through Sussex County, Delaware, and forms the boundary between Dorchester County, Maryland and Wicomico County, Maryland. The tidal river course proceeds southwest into the Tangier Sound, Chesapeake Bay. The river is 64.3 miles (103.5 km) long. A 26-mile ecotourism water trail running along the River was set aside in July 2011 by Delaware state and federal officials, contiguous with a 37-mile water-trail extending through Maryland to the Chesapeake Bay.Some of the main tributaries that feed the Nanticoke on the west-side include: Cow Creek; Jack Creek; Wapremander Creek; Marshyhope Creek; and the east side: Gravelly Fork and Broad Creek. Notable towns and communities situated along the river include Nanticoke, Bivalve, Vienna, and Sharptown in Maryland; and further north the city of Seaford, Delaware.

According to a study paid for by the town of Vienna, the English explorer John Smith travelled up the Nanticoke River and mapped it, and visited with Native Americans in their settlement, now believed to be Vienna.The river was dredged in 1990 and 2013 to facilitate shipping travel along the course.

Round Mountain (Snowy Mountains)

The Round Mountain, one of three peaks of the same name in the region, is a mountain located on the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains, part of the Great Dividing Range, in southeastern New South Wales, Australia.

With an elevation of 1,756 metres (5,761 ft) above sea level, Round Mountain is situated on a high point on the watershed between the Tumut River and Tooma River catchments. The summit is located close to the Khancoban-Cabramurra Road. A major fire trail running from the main road, makes Round Mountain a popular starting location for hiking and cross-country skiing expeditions.

Similar to other peaks in the area, it is covered by scrub on its lower slopes and in the more elevated areas it is clear and grassy.The other Round Mountain peaks are located at 36°32′S 148°25′E and 36°14′S 148°34′E.

Say G'day Rail Trail

The Say G'day Rail Trail is a "rail with trail" running between the neighbouring towns of Wandong and Heathcote Junction, 70 kilometres north of Melbourne, Australia. Suitable for pedestrians and cyclists, it was opened in December 2010. The trail was built with $247,750 allocated from the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority.

Sligo Creek Trail

Sligo Creek Trail is a paved hiker-biker trail running along Sligo Creek in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Most of the trail passes through tree-filled parkland. The trail and surrounding park is a popular place for locals to jog, walk, bicycle, roller-skate, and take their children to the playground. Many local families enjoy picnicking at one of the 15 picnic areas along the trail.


An ultramarathon, also called ultra distance or ultra running, is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi).

Van Buren Trail State Park

Van Buren Trail State Park, also known as Trail State Park, is an unimproved rail trail running along a former railroad right-of-way between Hartford, Michigan to South Haven, Michigan in Van Buren County. It is 14 miles (23 km) long and mostly used by horse trail riders in the summer and snowmobilers in the winter. Terrain is flat with farmland and trees.

In 2004, Van Buren County took over operation of the state-owned trail after state budget problems. There is a trail pass system to pay for maintenance.In 2015, The Michigan Department of Natural Resources paved the 4.5-mile stretch which connects Van Buren State Park to the South Haven Trail system The pavement is a 10-foot-wide asphalt surface. South Haven maintains the marked route that connects to a downtown trailhead, city businesses, beaches and Kal-Haven Trail State Park.Its northern terminus is South Haven near Lake Michigan. The Kal-Haven Trail starts in South Haven northeast of downtown. The trail pass is valid for both trails.

World championships
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Animal racing
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