Tuesday, 21st March 2023
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Training for the Mountains…In LONDON

by Tom Evans
Thursday 3rd August 2017
Tom Evans knows a thing or two about running hills - he recently finished 4th at the Eiger Ultra Trail 101km. But he doesn’t live in the mountains, he lives in the South of England. He writes about a problem a lot of us share - how to train for mountain races, while not living near any mountains! 
Being UK based, about 30 mins West of London, it’s not the best location to get to altitude and train in the mountains. Having said that, there are certain things that you can do that will help your performance. In the build-up to the Eiger Ultra Trail 101km, a mountain race in Switzerland with 6750m vertical ascent, the majority of my training was done on the ’relative’ flat in the South East of England. Here are some of the ways that helped me prepare for the race.
Having a strong core will help you maintain your posture when running, especially on technical terrain and steep climbs. The better your posture, the more efficient you are going to be. Core doesn’t have to be done in the gym, with hundreds of exercises and lots of weights. You can do these simple exercises at home.
My favourite 5 core exercises:
Leg Raises
It is possible to find some hills in and around London. I love training in Richmond park. There are a couple of decent hills that give you a chance to practice the uphill and downhill technique. If you are able to drive or get to Box Hill, then that’s a great hill which I have used lots in the build-up to races. If you can spend a weekend in one of the mountainous National Parks, then that will give you a great feeling of adventure and the hills. Even better, get out to Chamonix or anywhere in the Alps, on your own or part of a trail running group. I like to mix long reps and short reps together. My favourite hill session for the UK is 8 x 3 mins, with 2 x 30sec reps after rep 3 & 6.

Tom 1

Having strong ankles will mean that your body is well supported. In mountain running, there may be some gnarly trails which require good stability. Moving across rock fields is never easy, however with strong ankles then you will be able to move with more confidence. Imagine you have a pen on the end of your big toe and write out the alphabet. You can do this anytime, watching telly or waiting for the bus, it’s too easy!
Are you running as efficiently as possible? Running long distances is all about economy, saving as much energy as possible when you are moving. If you are going, up, down or motoring along on the flat, efficiency is key. Being upright, shoulders relaxed, head up are things that we may hear on the track, however, they are equally important in the mountains, if not more so. You can practice your ‘beautiful running’ technique on the flat and improve your running efficiency. This will really help when you transition into the mountains.
During a mountain race, it is likely that your heart rate is going to go through the roof on some of the climbs. Don’t worry, this is normal! One way we can try and replicate this is by doing intervals. My favourite session is 6 x 1 mile with 90 seconds jog recovery in between each rep. This gets your heart rate up quickly and then you have a short time to recover. 

Tom 3

Preparing for mountain races when you live and train on the flat is not ideal, however it is possible to train hard and get some really good results. The race is going to hurt, it’s not going to be easy, but as runners, that’s why we do it, it’s for the challenge and the sense of achievement when we cross that finish line. Just remember to take a little bit of time to look around at the amazing views and you certainly won’t regret it!

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