SAM BROOKS

HOW TO MIX BACK­PACK­ING WITH TRAIL RUN­NING ON A MULTI- DAY MOUN­TAIN AD­VEN­TURE

Trail Running (UK) - - Start Line - Words Sam Brooks

Ex­pe­ri­ence the amaz­ing world of fast-pack­ing with Sam,

The sun was shin­ing, we had left­over pizza in our packs from the night be­fore, and as we reached the top of a long climb, the stun­ning views stretched for miles in all direc­tions. It took our breath away, sud­denly stop­ping the flow of con­ver­sa­tion, re­plac­ing it with open mouths and mut­tered “wows”. With Mont Blanc in the dis­tance, Gran Par­adiso be­hind us and a stun­ning, tech­ni­cal, nar­row ridge­line dead ahead, we spun around 360 de­grees, qui­etly looked at each other and smiled. It was a trail run­ner’s par­adise.

If you’re like me, the thought of al­lo­cat­ing pre­cious an­nual leave, or even week­ends, to time spent ly­ing on a beach or ‘re­lax­ing’ doesn’t float my boat. I spend hours sit­ting down at work every day, dream­ing of head­ing to the hills, so the last thing I want to do with my time off is be in­ac­tive. I want to get out there and make the most of every minute, go on an ad­ven­ture with my mates and come back with sto­ries to tell.

A few years ago, I took four weeks off work to run the Ever­est Marathon in the high moun­tains of Nepal. A hand­ful of us de­cided to take on this chal­lenge to­gether and ex­plore a coun­try that had been on many of our bucket lists for some time. The trip was quite an ex­pe­ri­ence for all of us. We had an emer­gency evac­u­a­tion from Ever­est Base Camp due to ad­verse weather con­di­tions and suf­fered some of the worst sun­burn ever, af­ter get­ting caught in a bl­iz­zard dur­ing the hike down. But it didn’t put us off, and since then we’ve par­tic­i­pated in sev­eral multi-day events and even or­gan­ised our own trips. Time away was no longer a ‘hol­i­day’ it was now re­ferred to as an ‘ad­ven­ture’.

So, what does it take to en­rol in one of th­ese events, or even to plan your own? It isn’t as dif­fi­cult as you think.

En­ter a race

Multi-day com­pet­i­tive events are rapidly grow­ing in num­ber and pop­u­lar­ity, all de­signed to test the de­ter­mi­na­tion of a run­ner. Some of the most fa­mous

foot races in the world are multi-day events, like the Marathon des Sables – 250km through the Sa­hara desert over six hot and very sandy days. Highly re­garded by many as the tough­est foot race in the world, it’s a self-suf­fi­cient event where all com­peti­tors carry ev­ery­thing they need (other than wa­ter) to sur­vive al­most a week in the desert.

If sand isn’t your thing, you could try your hand at the Transalpine-Run, one of the tough­est but equally most spec­tac­u­lar trail run­ning events in the world. This phe­nom­e­nal race is 255km long with 17,000m of as­cent over seven days. It’s one of the few global races that takes you through three coun­tries, cross­ing over some stun­ning Euro­pean alpine passes.

Plan your own trip

Com­pet­ing isn’t for ev­ery­body, and you may pre­fer to sim­ply ex­plore a re­gion. De­cid­ing to or­gan­ise your own multi-day run – solo or with friends – isn’t dif­fi­cult and can lead to a fan­tas­tic sense of achieve­ment. As with most or­gan­ised trips, plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion are vi­tal, and safety should al­ways be your top pri­or­ity. Here are a few tips for plan­ning multi-day runs:

Choose a route that’s eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble through­out. We re­cently or­gan­ised a multi-day trip across the Haute Route, from Cha­monix in France to Zer­matt in Switzer­land. Choos­ing to travel fast and light meant it wasn’t an op­tion to carry enough food for the full six days of the trip. With this in mind, we planned our route to take us through the pic­turesque towns dot­ted through­out the re­gion, mak­ing re­stock­ing far eas­ier. It also en­abled peo­ple to join and leave part­way through the trip.

Race ‘rec­ces’ can make a bril­liant multi-day ad­ven­ture, and there are some in­sanely beau­ti­ful cour­ses out there that you could fa­mil­iarise your­self with be­fore toe­ing the start line. As an ex­am­ple, the Ul­tra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) cir­cum­nav­i­gates the Mont Blanc range over 170km with a whop­ping 10,000m of as­cent. It’s home to quaint alpine refuges, eas­ily book­able on­line, which of­fer tra­di­tional food and comfy beds. Or per­haps the UK’s fa­mous Bob Gra­ham Round, that sum­mits 42 of the Lake District’s fells (see page 14).

When plan­ning a team multi-day run, or when con­sid­er­ing the chal­lenge of a com­pet­i­tive multi-day event, each mem­ber of your group should be up­front and re­al­is­tic about their fit­ness lev­els and skills. Al­ways be pre­pared with the cor­rect kit and maps re­quired for mul­ti­ple days out, come rain or shine. You also need a thor­ough un­der­stand­ing of what the course or cho­sen route in­volves re­gard­ing dis­tance, weather and ter­rain, as well as sav­ing the num­ber for Moun­tain Res­cue in your phone. Ev­ery­body should be ex­pected to pull their weight for the sake of the group, and ap­pre­ci­ate that group de­ci­sions need to over­rule their own.

Pack the right kit

Ob­vi­ously kit varies de­pend­ing on the sea­son, weather fore­cast and sleep­ing op­tions, but you should also pack for un­ex­pected even­tu­al­i­ties.

For ex­am­ple, in moun­tain­ous re­gions it isn’t un­com­mon to get rained, hailed and snowed on – even in the height of sum­mer. Moun­tain weather con­di­tions can change in an in­stant, which makes care­ful prepa­ra­tion and the cor­rect kit

‘Any­one can com­plete a multi-day route. You just need the will to chal­lenge your­self and to step out of your com­fort zone.’

ab­so­lutely in­valu­able. If the weather turns and you aren’t car­ry­ing waterproof lay­ers and an emer­gency shel­ter, you leave your­self at the mercy of the el­e­ments. If you get de­layed in the moun­tains by bad weather or in­jury, with­out the right gear to keep you safe, the con­se­quences could be dis­as­trous.

Al­ways pack for hot, cold and wet weather. Sun­screen, cap, sun­glasses, warm hat or buff and gloves. Don’t scrimp on wa­ter­proofs – a light, wind­proof jacket won’t cut it in a tor­ren­tial down­pour, and waterproof trousers make a huge dif­fer­ence to your body tem­per­a­ture when it’s cold or wet. Gen­er­ally, though, you want to go fast and light where pos­si­ble. Leggings dou­ble up as py­ja­mas for high-al­ti­tude sleep­ing; a qual­ity thin ther­mal layer can be used to keep you warm or keep the sun off. Un­der­wear can be rinsed and dried overnight or worn in­side out the next day! No­body smells great in a refuge – you’ll be in good com­pany – so don’t be too pre­cious about mul­ti­ple changes of clothes, un­less you’re pre­pared to lug it around with you for the du­ra­tion.

It’s a good idea to check that refuges pro­vide food and that shops will ac­tu­ally be open when you’re plan­ning to pass through. Bed­ding and stoves are re­quired if you’re camp­ing out, or if there’s a pos­si­bil­ity you may get stuck on the hill. At the very least I’d al­ways rec­om­mend pack­ing a de­cent warm layer, plus an emer­gency blan­ket or bivvy bag in case you de­cide to camp or don’t make it to your bed for the night. Es­sen­tial emer­gency items should be car­ried at all times, with­out ques­tion. A de­cent first aid kit and knowl­edge of how to treat com­mon run­ning in­juries should be top of the list. Maps, com­passes, GPS de­vices, charg­ers, spare bat­ter­ies, a head torch, sur­vival blan­ket, lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional res­cue num­bers, in­sur­ance de­tails, a work­ing phone, your pass­port and some cash – it all sounds so ob­vi­ous but make sure ev­ery­one is car­ry­ing them. Your life could de­pend on the ac­tions and kit of other group mem­bers. Any­one can com­plete a multi-day route, all you need is the will to chal­lenge your­self and to step out of your com­fort zone. Prepa­ra­tion and proper plan­ning are key to suc­cess, and if you mix that with a bunch of great friends and the great out­doors, you’ll be ready for a most ex­cel­lent ad­ven­ture!

www.thead­ven­ture run­ning­com­pany.com

If you feel in­spired to take on your own multi-day trail run­ning ad­ven­ture, con­tact Sam at The Ad­ven­ture Run­ning Com­pany Com­pany.

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