Mountain Running

What is Mountain Running?

In the United States, mountain running and trail running are often used interchangeably and in most cases, refer to the same type of running in terms of terrain, elevation changes, and running surface. Since mountain runs are often contested on trails – either single track or double track – the trail running term fits quite well. Keep in mind that some mountain runs are staged on paved, or semi-paved surfaces, but must still have significant (uphill) elevation gains to be considered mountain runs – this is one element of mountain running that distinguishes the sport from trail running.

In response to the growth in our sport, a subcommittee was developed within our national governing body, USA Track & Field, in 1998 to respond to the needs of the elite-level competitors on the international level as well as to develop grassroots running programs throughout the country. In 2000, the Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) subcommittee was granted council status and is presently under the purview of USATF’s long distance running division. The group is comprised of open and masters representatives from women’s, men’s, and master’s long distance running. In order to compete on the international level in IAAF sanctioned events, including the World Mountain Running Trophy, the nation’s governing body must be a member association of the international body. Thus, the U.S. is a member of the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA). Even though there are associations addressing the needs of our sport such as the American Trail Running Association (ATRA), many individuals choose to run trails and mountains in their own time and space and do not compete in races, or join associations, which makes it difficult to place a figure on the actual number of trail runners. In spite of this, in 2001, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) prepared a report indicating there to be 5.2 million trail runners nationwide (those that participated in the sport at least once in 2000). The figure in 2003 from the SGMA listed trail running as the seventh most popular sport with 6.1 million participants.

TREND: 2004 vs. 1998
Participant #’s ‘04 % Change
Trail Running. . . 39.5 million . . . +20.3

Enthusiast* #’s ‘04 % Change
Trail Running. . . 6.2 million . . . . +47.4

*49 or more trail runs in 2004
Source: OIA Outdoor Recreation Participation in the U.S., 7th Ed. (2005)

TREND: 2004 vs. 2003
Participant #’s ‘03 % Change
Trail Running. . . 37.6 million . . . +4.1
Hiking . . . . . . . 71.6 million . . . +3.7

Enthusiast #’s ‘03 % Change
Trail Running. . . 5.7 million . . . +7.7
Hiking . . . . . . . 10.5 million . . . +6.2
Source: OIA Outdoor Recreation Participation in the U.S., 7th Ed. (2005)

The number of off-road races nationwide has grown over the past 13 years from approximately 450 in 1994 to well over 1000 in 2007. Races range in distance from one-mile fun runs to 100-plus miles of ultra-endurance running, providing an opportunity for all levels of competition from the novice to the experienced trail runner. A majority of the races range from five to 15 miles. N In summary, new trail and mountain running races appear on the calendar each year to provide more opportunities for competition at the grassroots through elite level for runners of all ages. Additionally, the sporting goods industry continues to respond to the needs of the trail and mountain runner by developing new apparel, footwear, hydration, and nutrition products. The media responds by supporting the sport in terms of promotion and visibility.