Building a race calendar can be a challenge — a big challenge. There are countless great events, in must-see places, filled with must-meet people. So, do you see how it can be hard to narrow it down to a manageable number?
As I started thinking about my own race calendar for this year, one series was non-negotiable: the Under Armour Mountain Running Series. Let me tell you why: It fulfilled three major factors that go into a great race: stellar venues, positive vibes and challenging courses. Spoiler alert: You’re going to want to add this to your calendar, too.
The UA Mountain Running Series brings you to three locations — Copper Mountain, Colorado, Killington, Vermont, and Bend, Oregon. These mountains couldn’t be more different, but they are all stunning. The perk? You get to check them out on foot.
The Rockies are big mountains. As you come close to summit, somewhere around 12,000 feet, you will see what I mean. You will test your legs, lungs and heart on the climb, but, there is reason for it — the view. At that moment, the hard seems entirely worth it and once you reach the highest point on race day, it’s time to run down — usually a crowd favorite.
Killington may lack a couple thousand feet on the other two mountains. But, don’t underestimate the Green Mountain terrain. For what the mountain lacks in vert, you make up for in steep, rugged, technical climbs and descents. If you are expecting switch backs, I’ll break it to you now: In Vermont, you go up and you go down. In between that, you watch for rocks, roots and test your quads, over and over, again.
How many chances will you have to run in the Pacific Northwest on a once volcanic mountain? This mountain couples a variety of terrain, runnable singletrack and fire roads, a little bit of bushwhacking through dry open spaces covered in shrubs and 360-degree views. Last year, it was still snow capped in July.
When you arrive at an event, you want to feel something. That something should be the morning calm, coupled with the excitement and the hype of race day. The Mountain Running series has this covered — with a large vendor village, resort accommodations right on course, and plenty of room to chat about running, play life-size Jenga, enjoy a post-race beer or hit the tent for recovery. It’s all there. And then you have the people. You will meet new runners, experienced runners, run crews and family members cheering on their runners. For all the things trail running is, it is not a spectator sport. But, with a village area and great resorts, you can drag the family along — the only difference is, this time, they will actually be happy you did.
The courses will challenge you. And that’s the point. I can assure you that when you sign up for a race, you’re not looking for a stroll in the park. The important part is to choose the challenge accordingly. We are still talking about a mountain, and with 5–50K distances, there is the right challenge for everyone. It might require extra grit, but you are up for it and the energy on-course, plus well-stocked and staffed aid stations, will get you through.
Topher Gaylord said it best: “[The race is for those] with a twinkle in their eyes, a hunger in their belly and a desire to come out. …” He’s right. The courses, the camaraderie, the laid-back vibe — it makes this race series. Mountains have an incredible power of asking you to show up. You don’t have to take my word, the pictures will tell you all you need to know, too. If you have been thinking about an event, break it down like I did. Maybe you will even put this one on your list.
I’m signed up. My calendar is marked, and I know I made a good choice on these mountains. I think it’s safe to say, I can start counting down to Copper Mountain now. How about you?
Register now for a summer you won’t forget.