It’s All Uphill From Here: 5 Uphill Only Races

Mont Blanc Skyrace

I was once in a running club in a reasonably flat part of the country and people complained about a certain route because of the hill. The hill in question? A road bridge. Hills are subjective. One person’s ‘pleasantly undulating’ is another person’s Everest. But we bring you some races that are definitely hilly. In fact, they’re uphill only races.

  1. UYN Mont Blanc Skyrace K2000. This race has a mind-boggling 2200m of ascent over just 11km and the finish is at 3466m. Because that doesn’t sound hard enough runners have to don helmets for the last 200m of ascent and use fixed ropes. There’s also a vertical kilometre and a kids’ race, which would probably be enough for most of us. Natalie White ran the K2000 race this weekend and this is what she had to say about it:

“It was a fast and furious start on the road, then straight into a steep climb to the mid-station, where we collected helmets and grabbed a drink. Then it was a mega steep uphill on grass – steeper than I’ve ever done before – then poles away before a mega scramble with fixed ropes. By now I was feeling light-headed with the altitude! Next you headed up a ladder, where some men were ready to catch you, then lastly a run up the staircase to the highest point (3466m). Such an amazing concept. Fun in a weird way but so hard!”

Natalie White uphill only race
Natalie White gets her helmet at the ready for the Mont Blanc Skyrace (c) Robbie Britton
  1. Pikes Peak Ascent. Starting in Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs, Colorado, this race climbs up to 4300m and takes in 2400m of ascent along the way. The race dates back to 1956 and the main event is a marathon which takes in the full ascent and descent of the mountain. But the ‘easy’ option of the Ascent race, which is a half marathon distance, is just up! Runners have to qualify to enter the event by proving that they’ve completed a half, marathon or ultra under a specified time.  A fact I particularly enjoy about the marathon is that it was the first one in America to allow female competitors, right from the first running of the event. This year the event is part of the Salomon Golden Trails Series.
    Pikes Peak Mark Byzewski
    Pikes Peak (c) Mark Byzewski (CC BY 2.0)
  2. Red Bull 400. If you’re a fan of the short, sharp kind of hilly race then you might enjoy the Red Bull 400. It’s just 400m but the catch is that these races are run up ski jumps and the word ‘steep’ doesn’t really cover it. They currently take place at 17 different venues all around the world and they are adding more all the time. They attract some of the top mountain runners but lots of people just do it for something different and fun, and you can even do it as a 4 x 100m relay if you can rope in some friends!
  3. Jungfrau Marathon. Let the stunning scenery distract you as you gradually climb 1,829 metres over the course of a marathon, to reach the finish at 2,100m. The Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains are your backdrop and races don’t get much more spectacular than that. The first 10k of the race is pretty flat and most of the climbing takes place after 25k, then, just when your legs feel like jelly, it heads back downhill steeply for the last kilometre!
    Jungfrau Marathon Kai Engelhardt
    Jungfrau Marathon (c) Kai Engelhardt (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  4. Dolomyths Vertical Kilometre race. A vertical kilometre race in Canazei, Italy, which is about as tough as they get. You will start at 1,465m and climb up to, you guessed it, 2.465m over the course of just 2.4km of running. Some stretches have a 50% incline. It’s ok to walk those bits.

There are of course many uphill only races in the UK. Many fell races are uphill only and here’s a few other suggestions:

Snowdon Twilight – an uphill only version of the International Snowdon Race.

Glencoe Mountain Uphill Running Race – 5k with 500m of ascent.

Salomon Mamores VK – billed as ‘the UK’s only vertical kilometre’.

An uphill only race could be something different to try, if you’re feeling in a bit of a rut with your running. Or it could be a really good challenge to add to your running bucket list.

Header image (c) Robbie Britton