This article was written by ATRA founder and executive director Nancy Hobbs and first appeared in the summer Fall edition of our Trail Times newsletter.
On September 3, 2022, I completed my twelfth World Masters Mountain Running Championship race in Clonmel, Ireland and earned my third medal. Each year the championship venue for this event for athletes ages 35 to 79 is different, as is the course. Some years it is a mostly uphill endeavor, while others – like this year – are up/down. I’ve learned a lot over the years from my experiences at Worlds and share some of my top takeaways.
From 2004 to 2022, I’ve been out of the top ten only twice – 2004 and 2007. These efforts were my first two attempts when I had zero expectations and not much confidence competing on the world stage against the best women in my age group. My results reflected my lack of mental preparedness. I came back in 2009 well trained and hopeful. On the start line a friend said to me, “You’re really fit and you are going to do great.” I had put in the training and I was ready. That mental boost at the start line really helped me and gave me the encouragement I needed. I finished fourth. After that race, I carried with me a much-needed confidence and decided that if I mentally and physically prepared myself, I could someday get on the podium. I now go into each race with mental confidence bolstered by physical training. I know that I train as hard as every other competitor with a goal to earn a podium spot.
Know the course profile and terrain and plan your training with this in mind. Whatever the surface, be sure you’ve encountered it in training. Whatever the elevation profile, be sure you’ve experienced it on your runs. If the course is mostly uphill…focus on climbing. Incorporate hill work into training at least one day a week. If there are long, flat sections, work on your speed. Intervals on the track or trail are suggestions. Since there may not be time to recon the entire course in advance, learning the basic profile and terrain is super helpful and provides a visual picture that you can carry in your mind on race day.
The start line is not the spot to get nervous and second guess your training. No need to look around and wonder how fit the person standing next to you is. You’ve put in the training so race with purpose. The years I’ve medaled, I’ve gone out fast from the start. I know that the caliber of the field is always strong and asserting speed at the outset is important to gain a good position and keep it.
Next year’s World Masters Mountain Running Championships will be in Madeira, Portugal on a mostly uphill course. To prepare, I’ll have the confidence from a podium finish this year going into 2023. My training will be focused on climbing, but I’ll still be doing speed work to keep my legs snappy for the start and any level spots encountered on the course. Join me and the US contingent next September.
There’s a new twist this year. In addition to the classic event distance of 9.25 kilometers (start at Ponta do Pargo at 450 meters and finishing at Fonte do Bispo at 1240 meters), there will also be a long distance event of 32.4 kilometers (starting elevation at 450 meters with 1160 meters of elevation gain). The classic race will be held on Saturday, September 16, while the long distance will be on Sunday, September 17. Details soon at www.wmra.info.
[PRO TIP: Want to know more about what it’s like to race in the World Masters Mountain Running Championships? Check out this race recap from the races last month in Clonmel, Ireland.]