So you've signed up for a mountain run, you're looking forward to it, maybe it's your first time doing one but then, you look around you, and you don't see any mountains. Maybe this was a stupid idea, you think to yourself, how am I supposed to train for a mountain run when I'm in the city?! Well, panic not, we're here to give you a few pointers to get you going!
Imagine the landscape you're training for and mimic changes in effort levels
On the treadmill, crank up the incline and picture yourself on a mountain run. Visualisation tactics might seem like mumbo jumbo but they work. Similarly, if you're running outside, visualise the trail. Pick a line and stick to it. Use the obstacles in your way - the curb, a bin, a parked car - to change your tempo and the size of your stride.
Focus more on maintaining a steady effort rather than an even pace. A mountain run can disrupt your stride, pace and even your focus through changes in footing, elevation and direction. So, the trick is to stop worrying about pace and focus on a constant effort instead. During a mountain run the effort you expend will be different at different stages - going uphill, along flat sections, going downhill. You can mimic these changes in your everyday routine, by changing the effort your expend. As an example, you could run for 10 minutes at an easy pace to simulate a flat section, followed by 20 minutes at a tempo speed to mark a climb and then another 20 minutes at an easy descent-like pace.
And remember, just because you don't have mountains nearby doesn't mean you should stop seeking out different terrain - sand, mud, gravel, grass. Additional energy is often required with a change of terrain (ever run on the beach?) - your knee lift might need to be higher and you might need to use more energy to keep your form so look around you, see what's available, and see how it could be useful when translated to mountain running. This will help you to keep the focus on effort rather than pace.
Use what you have available to you
Look for mountains in everything. Stairs in particular, are not only a brilliant substitute for mountains, they are also everywhere and easily accessible. Use them, over and over. Different stairs tend to be spaced differently so don't be afraid to mix it up . With an average flight of stairs having 15 steps, you could be up Carrauntoohil in no time (well, about 453 flights' time)!
Don't forget to be engaged coming down the stairs too - it's a great way of simulating the different stresses on your muscles that running down a mountain has. While running down a mountain might seem like the easy part, it can be just as taxing on your muscles and joints as going up.
Strengthen your core and your legs
Mountain running requires strength, and the stronger your muscles are the more likely you are to stay injury free. Adding as little as 10 minutes of strength training to your post run routine really adds up and you'll reap the benefits when you do get out on the mountain. See here to get you started: Strength routine for runners
Mind over Matter
Throughout your training it's a really good idea to focus on your mental stamina too. When you're tired, near the end of your mountain run, and are faced with one last climb, it's your mind that will get you up and over it. You might feel like crying, or quitting, or both, but with a strong mind you will be able to keep focused on the task at hand. Finding a mantra that you like and repeating it can be a good place to start.
Get out of the city
No matter where you live in Ireland, you’re never too far from a mountain or a trail. It might sound obvious but using them is key. Although all the tips above are really useful, nothing can substitute the skills learned and experience gained from being out in the environment you'll be in when on a mountain run.
Most importantly, remember that just because you don't live near any mountains doesn't mean that you can't train for a mountain run. You might think you're at a disadvantage, but with some focused training and a can-do attitude you can make it happen. Decide you will and you're already one step closer!
If you are planning on entering the Gaelforce Mountain Run this coming March, make sure you've read the event information and the entry requirements. It is worth noting also that you do need specific trail/mountain running shoes that will give you the support and grip that you wil need for a morning on the hills as aposed to a run through the city streets!