Rating by Distance, Elevation and Technical Difficulty
- DESCRIPTION OF TRAIL RUNNING:
Trail running is a sport that involves running or walking in a outdoor environment on a natural terrain, taking advantage of the geographical features offered by each region (usually mountains, deserts, forests…) and following a logical path that allows us to discover the region. Trail running encompasses very different practices, depending on where we run, the distance and the characteristics of each region.
(c) Ian Corless Troffeo KIMA (c) Tanner Johnson Western States 100
- WHY MAKE A LABEL?
It’s important to know that Trail running is a sport played outdoors, in the nature. That implies a difficulty of classifying competitions as each race will have its peculiarities. We will never find an identical race to another and even the same race may well change from one edition to the next, as specificity and difficulty of the game is given because the mountain is a living being, that is changing and it is different at each place and at all times of the year.
Two races with the same elevation and distance can be very different from each other, either by the type of terrain, the climatic conditions or the conditions of the mountain at the time, or the different surfaces, such as snow, mud or a dry floor.
And although each mountain race, by elevation, weather, terrain, technicality, kilometers and more factors is almost impossible to establish a classification. Trail runners mostly think about physical capacities (“I can run 20km, 80km or 200km” or “I can make 4000m elevation…”) but rarely they do think about the difficulty (“it demands some climbing, it demands to know how to put the feet, rocks, snow…”) the experience (“need to navigate out of trails, need to use and know to use extra gear to protect myself because is a storm, need to stay on the middle of a mountain for some hours waiting for a rescue….”) and the exposition (be injured here is difficult to evacuate, “if I fall from here I can die…”)
We think it is very important all the trail runners to understand that Trail Running is not just about distance and elevation but about technical skills and experience. Our goal is not to make a classification of the races but make the runners understand the technical notion on races to be safer and to not go where they have not the technical capacities.
We were thinking on a label of races on difficulty/exposition. As there is in mountaineering a system to provide guidance if you have enough experience to do a route(PD, AD, D, MD, ED) we design a label system for trail races to tell people what they may expect.
- TRAIL RUNNING LABEL
The facts that differecncy every trail race can be grouped on 3 axes:
- Distance: kilometers of the race
- Elevation: ascent meters and downhill meters
- Technicality and Exposure: Exposure, altitude and technicality of the terrain. Considering the risk of injury or die, the technical skills to progress on every terrain, the self-reliance needed to be on safety by oneself.
We can study the distance on a metric system (distance on kilometers) or on a physiological way on the duration of effort:
– Short: need of a strong contribution of the anaerobic metabolism (mainly lactic, but also alactic), the intensity is above and not lower than the anaerobic threshold. Maximum time: from few seconds to one hour.
– Medium: need of a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic metabolism, up, but not higher than the anaerobic threshold, or between the aerobic and the anaerobic thresholds. Time: between one hour and few (3-4) hours (we have to decide considering the aerobic power/time relationship).
– Long: need only the aerobic metabolism, always under the aerobic threshold. Time from 4 hours, but less than 16 hours.
– Ultra-long: mean intensity always under the aerobic threshold, but race long enough to reach a minimum level of sleep deprivation (that affects brain and cognitive functions). So, considering a mean of 8 hours of daily sleep, we can define “sleep deprivation” when the performance lasts more than 24-8=16 hours.
|short||1-19km||20’- 1h||Vertical Kilometers, Mount Marathon, Tjon Dixence|
|middle||20-49km||2-4h||Dolomites SkyRace, Zegama, Ultraks, Sierre Zinal|
|long||50-100km||5-16h||80 Chamonix, Transvulcania, The Rutt|
|ultra||more than 100km||> 16h||UTMB, Hardrock 100, Diagonale des Fous|
|Stages races||multy day race||Transalpine run, transrockies, 4 trails|
We consider the elevation on meters or feet, taking the elevation gain in the case the race have the same drop on uphill and downhill, and specifying the uphill and downhill elevation on the case the race is A to B.
We can difference:
– Uphill race: only positive elevation: includes Vertical Km, Opp races, Pikes peak ascent
– Downhill race: only negative elevation
– From A to B race: Start and finish line not at the same point, so different + and – elevation. Exemples: WS100, Valmalenco Valspochiavo,
– loop race: Start and finish on the same point, so same + and – elevation: examples: UTMB, Zegama, KIMA…
- TECHNICAL AND EXPOSITION
Taking the example on mountaineering label for alpine routes (PD to ABO) we make a label on trail running races:
|I – EASY||easy terrain, not need to use the hands. Clean trails, on outdoors or low mountain.||no risk or small injuries||Sierre Zinal, Western States|
|II- INTERMEDIATE||easy terrain, not need to use the hands. Some rocky or mountain trail parts, need to have a “randonée” or low mountain knowledge.||Risk of injuries and need to be self-relianced on low mountain (wait to be evacuate in case of accident, not get lost on non visibility,know to follow trails, know about storms…)||UTMB, Zermatt Ultraks, Giir di Mont, Zegama|
|III- INTERMEDIATE||dificult terrain, rocks, snow, go out trails. Need to use the hands. Need to have a middle – middle – high mountain knowledge.||Risk to get injured or seriously injured. Need to be in autonomy in hard mountain conditions.||Diagonale Des Fous, 80 Chamonix, Dolomites Skyrace, Hardrock 100, The Rutt|
|IV – DIFFICULT||dificult terrain, steep rocks, hard snow, small scrambling and ropes use. high mountain knowledge. Use of||Risk to get injured or seriously injured. Need to be in autonomy in hard mountain conditions.||Sentiero delle Grigne, Elbrus race|
|V – DIFFICULT||Dificult terrain, glacier, rock scrambling, up to III climbing grade. Need a high mountain knowledge. Use of crampons or technical gear.||Risk to get seriously injured or die in case to fall. Need to have knowleges on hight mountain and be independent to make himself safe in all conditions.||KIMA, Lenin race, els 2900, Tromso SkyRace|
Other factors can influence on the T label:
– Distance on exposed terrain, the fatality in case of fall.
– A long way or difficult access to evacuate in case of DNF or accident.
– A low number of aid stations or controls, the needed of navigate and be autonomy during long periods on the mountains.
– the quality of the terrain, as lose rocks, ice snow…
– Weather conditions on the race spot, as average on the dates and area.
– Mountain knowledges are not just about the altitude: High mountain (glacier) can be at 1000m on Scandinavia, 3500m on the alps or 5000m on Himalayas or US.
Trail running is a mountain sport, Altitude should be considered starting from the classification proposed by Bartsch and accepted by the UIAA:
|Altitude||From m||To m||AMS||lavel|
|High||3001||5500||Possible/probable||specify “High altitude”|
|Extreme||5501||8848||Probable||specify “extreme altitude”|
AMS: Acute Mountain Sickness Acute mountain sickness can progress to high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), which are potentially fatal.
Also in high altitude the recovery time it decreases, the decisions taken is less lucid and we have less precision on the movements.
The organizers must be the ones who decide the label of the race, in function of the technical and exposed facts of the track. And communicate for the safety of the athletes, and don’t overestimate the difficulty to don’t make the athletes confused on other races more technical.
The athletes must understand which are their technical capacities and experience to take part on a more or less technical race. And to train and improve this capacities on training before taking part on a more technical race (without counting the distance and elevation facts)
Federations must control that the races under his calendar are well labeled. A over-label can make misunderstanding and confusion and affect the safety of the racers.
The situation today:
Alpinism and Athletics are on the schema to situate the label and other disciplines.
Trail Running: a global sport, running on the outdoors on natural terrain.
Inside we can find some disciplines:
Skyrunning: On technical trails, altitude and hight mountains. from level I to V
Fellrunning: On technical trails, normally off trails on rocky and grass terrain, specific from UK. From level I to V
Vertical Kilometer: A Only uphill race. the technicality can be from I to V.
Mountain running: On easy trails on outdoors. Level I of technically.
Urban Trail / City Trail: On urban spaces, on artificial terrain, with elevation and artificial obstacles. Level I of technicality.
Athletics: a global sport, running on the outdoors or indoors on artificial terrain. Only Cross country is on natural terrain. Technical label will be 0.
Kilian Jornet Burgada, Thanks to the collaboration of:
Giulio Sergio Roi, Doctor specialized in altitude and mountaineering
Fabio Menino, Journalist, sport analist
Marino Giacometti, ISF president
Carlos García Prieto, ITRA secretary
Joe Grant, Runner and representant of trail running athletes commission,
Christophe Boloyan, Directeur de la Chamoniarde