Trail running is a sports activity that combines running and hiking, which means running on unpaved surfaces. Although trail running is also running in the desert, or in other places with unpaved roads, in most cases it takes place in mountainous terrain and can lead to significant ascents and descents with the consequent accumulation of unevenness.
Today this discipline has become very popular and has experienced a growth of 1,000% in the number of races organized if we compare 2008 with 2019. Trail running enthusiasts often cite the feeling of freedom and running with less impact on the joints as their main reasons for preferring this form of running.
“The activity of running in the mountains is so old that its origin is lost in the mists of time.”
References to Trail Running
The oldest reference found dates back to the reign of Malcolm Canmore of Scotland between 1040 and 1064 AD. These races were called fell faces. The term “fell” refers to small mountains with a maximum height of 1000 meters. Since the 19th century, these trail races have been held within the Highland Games of Scotland.
In America, trail running was born in 1904, when some runners from San Francisco made a bet. They bet on who could run the fastest from a late 19th-century settlement called the Dipsea Inn to a place called Mount Tamalpais. They enjoyed it so much that the following year (1905) they organized the first Cross Country Run championship.
The Dipsea Race, as it is called today, is part, along with the Boston Marathon, of the pioneering long-distance races that shaped the world of running for generations to come in the United States.
In Spain, already within the Iberian Peninsula, we find at the beginning of the 20th century the first references to this type of activity. In the Basque Country, “races” were held in the Bilbao Pagasarri, in which participants were grouped in pairs, having to climb the mountain tied by their hands.
In the Sierra del Guadarrama, we find the first reference to these races in the year 1916 when the society Amigos del Campo organized the first test of this modality of which it has remained constant, with a route Cercedilla-Siete Picos-Cercedilla. Then the mountain societies began to organize their mountain races.
Seven years later, the Peñalara club founded the so-called Iron Cup, a trophy that would be awarded to the runner who won the event in two consecutive editions, or in three alternating ones. From then until 1935, new races were held in the Guadarrama mountain range; in 1936, with the start of the Civil War, this type of event disappeared for 50 years, until in 1986, the sports and cultural club of employees of the Bank of Spain organized the Cross de las Dehesas.
Two years later the Peñalara Club, to celebrate its 75th anniversary, created the Long Rope Cross, and a year later Carlos Soria, then vice-president of the Peñalara Club, proposed the La Pedriza cross climbing, a test that was carried out in pairs, and in which participants had to climb the Pared de Santillana, El Yelmo and the Cancho de Los Muertos.
Already during the ’90s, new races began to emerge throughout the peninsula; and in the 21st century, their growth can be considered exponential, reaching the current year 2019, where every weekend of the year several mountain races are held throughout the planet, and where their popularity has spread to all corners of the world.