Performance11 Aug 2020

Mattevi’s 10 tips for budding mountain runners


A mountain runner in action (© Getty Images)

Since her early teens, world U20 mountain running champion Angela Mattevi has fully embraced the experience of running in the mountains.

We speak to the 19-year-old Italian about her top 10 mountain running tips.

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Technical tip

When running uphill, it is essential to push off the ball of the foot. This movement ensures a lighter touch off the ground and, along with regular breathing, optimises energy.

Running downhill requires concentration. It is important to run downhill by pushing the feet as far back as possible, so they are almost brushing the glutes. It is important when running downhill never to push off the heels as this increases exertion and can lead to a loss of balance.

Shoe-wearing tip

To maintain stability, it is important to wear good shoes. They must offer protection but also be light enough to allow you to run to the best of your ability; in other words, a compromise is needed between a good running shoe and a trekking shoe. It is important that they are able to provide spring and aid momentum while running uphill but also to ensure a sense of safety when running downhill. The sole must provide good grip on rocky terrain (particularly when wet) as well as on snow and ice. A lightweight shoe is also essential and I would advise the shoes must weigh less than 200grams (7oz).

Clothing tip

I would suggest wearing a good breathable and waterproof t-shirt with the option, depending on the weather, to add other layers (of clothing). When dressing for a mountain race you need to consider the temperature differentials. It might be 15C at the start but when you get to a higher altitude the temperature may drop to 5C or lower.

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Training tip

To run fast in the mountains it is, of course, necessary to spend a portion of time running both uphill and downhill on the mountain paths and to vary the steepness and difficulty. However, it is also useful to train on flat ground with classical reps and fartlek sessions because this develops basic speed, which is also essential for mountain races. I would also suggest adding workouts (with strength training circuits, both bodyweight and with the use of fitness machines) into the training programme to aid muscle strength and core stability

Injury prevention tip

The ankles can be a vulnerable area for mountain runners. In order to make them stronger and more reactive, I walk on my tiptoes two to three times for a minute with a 30-second break between each exercise. Then I walk for 30 seconds, once again two to three times, reproducing the classic rolling movement.

Pre-race preparation tip

In the week before a race it is important to rein back the training. I still run every day, and sprint at the end of each session to maintain muscle flexibility, but by reducing mileage in that final week this allows me to reach race day with my batteries fully charged!

If you are running a race at an altitude of more than 1000m and you have serious competitive ambitions, it is useful to become accustomed to the altitude. So, I would suggest in the 10 to 20 days prior to the race, training at the same altitude. It is also handy, if possible, to inspect the racing route. This allows you to be mentally prepared for the more challenging stretches.

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Mental tip

The mind is very important for a mountain race. Why? Well, firstly because it is very important to be fully focused running on a rugged mountain running terrain, which can create its challenges. But, most importantly, a strong mind helps manage energy levels. Races can be from 8-18km in length. It is important to retain a positive attitude because sometimes you will go through down periods during the race.

Pain management tip

If I’m struggling with fatigue during the race, I always make sure I take a quick glance at the stunning landscape I’m experiencing. This was a tactic I used when I started to feel pain en route to my junior women’s victory at the 2019 World Mountain Running Championships.

Nutrition tip

A balanced diet is essential for any athlete. For dinner on the eve of a race, I would suggest a mix of carbs (pasta, rice, cereals) and proteins (ideally white meat, such as chicken or turkey). This will ensure you maximise your energy levels for the next day. During the race, if it is longer than 15km, I would suggest taking on board gels or a protein/energy bar.

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Motivational tip

It is important to always remember it is fun to run in the mountains, in nature. Having a good time and enjoying the experience should always be the main motivation for what you do.

Steve Landells for World Athletics